Journalists at Newsquest Darlington vote for strike

Journalists working for Newsquest in Darlington have become the latest to vote for strike action in protest at proposed redundancies and a continuing pay freeze across the group.

Members of the National Union of Journalists on the Darlington and Stockton Times, the Durham Times and the Advertiser series are concerned by proposals to merge production of the daily and weekly titles with the loss of eight jobs.

Like colleagues on other Newsquest titles, those in Darlington are also protesting about a company-wide pay freeze that has been in place for almost two-and-a-half years.

Sixty-one union members in Darlington were balloted by the union, according to the NUJ 78 per cent of whom voted for strike action while 85 per cent voted for action short of a strike.

The vote for strike action means that Newsquest now faces strikes at three of its centres.

Walkouts in Brighton and Southampton last month have been followed-up with proposals fora further coordinated 48-hour strike at these centres next week.

Journalists working for Newsquest in Andover also intend to ballot for strike action, as do their colleagues at Newsquest centres in York, Bradford, Bolton and Blackburn.

The NUJ’s national executive council has said it intends to spearhead a national campaign around the situation at Newsquest where the pay freeze, job cuts and controversial reform of the pension scheme have left employees feeling jaded at a time when executives at the company are seeing their pay increase.

The highest paid director of Newsquest – understood to be chief executive Paul Davidson – received a remuneration increase of 21.5 per cent last year.

Financial records filed at Companies House in October revealed that Newsquest’s top earning director’s pay climbed from £501,234 to £609,385.

Payments to his pension scheme increased from £38,536 to £94,986

Those figures also revealed that operating profit for Gannett UK, which runs Newsquest, was reported to be £71.7m for 2009, compared with an operating loss of £462,000 in 2008.

The financial health of Newsquest led Gracia Martore, chief financial officer at the company’s US parent, Gannett, to say last month that ‘Newsquest makes a lot of money.”

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and Midlands organiser, said: “The overwhelming vote by our members at Darlington gives the strongest possible signal to the company that enough is enough and that there is a determined mood to prevent the company committing more vandalism to their great newspapers and associated websites.

“It is no coincidence that Newsquest is now facing strikes at three major locations with a whole string of NUJ chapels at other centres queuing up to be balloted for strike action.

“Our members do not want to have to take industrial action but the company’s arrogance and gross insensitivity gives them no alternative in doing all they can to defend their standard of living, their jobs and ultimately their profession.

“It is not too late for senior managers to pull away from the ruinous path they are taking the company and instead enter into real, meaningful discussions with the NUJ at all levels to find a solution in the best interests of all.”

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