Journalists at Newsquest’s south London hub have passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in their directors as they prepare to take action short of a strike next week.
Members of the National Union of Journalists based at the publisher’s Sutton office will adopt a strict “work to rule policy” from Thursday after voting for industrial action last week.
It came as the company announced that 27 out of 29 members of editorial staff at the Sutton office, which produces eight local titles, were at risk of redundancy as 11 jobs are to be cut.
The Newsquest south London NUJ chapel has also said it has “no confidence” in chief executive Henry Faure Walker, editorial director Toby Granville and managing director Tony Portelli.
A spokesperson said: “They have no realistic plans, strategy or vision for how local news can be produced if the redundancies go ahead.”
An NUJ chapel spokesperson added: “Senior managers have shown they have no idea what our work involves and have no interest in finding out.
“They’re quite happy to lose readers by compromising our ability to produce quality news. The company believes our work is worth nothing and so all its cuts fall on reporters, editors and subs.
“We’re tired of being treated as disposable ‘non-revenue generators’ while Newsquest chases profit to send straight to [owners] Gannett in the US.”
The action is part of a dispute over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, pay, health and safety and what members claim has been a drop in the quality of local journalism as a result of consecutive cuts at the south London hub.
Working to rule means staff will strictly adhere to company or statutory work-related rules, such as established working hours.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “The chapel’s work to rule will expose the severe levels of understaffing that already exist at Newsquest South London.
“The company’s current proposals will have a detrimental impact on local news and on the journalists who work in South London.
“Our members just want decent terms and conditions at work so they can do a good job for the local communities they serve.
“The company’s actions show a blatant disregard both for its hardworking staff and Londoners who rely on the news and content they produce.”
Newsquest is swinging the axe at four reporters, two content editors, three sub-editors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor by mid-October, according to the NUJ.
If the cuts go ahead the union said it will leave 12 reporters and four content editors producing 11 newspapers and eight websites.
The titles and websites affected include the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham (pictured top).
The ongoing issues at Newsquest south London have caught the attention of fellow union members at the Financial Times, who agreed to support striking journalists with a hardship fund. Local politicians have also spoken out against the move.
A Newsquest spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the NUJ and its members are taking this stance as we are undertaking a thorough consultation with our editorial team to ensure the best outcome for our valued staff, readers and newsbrands.
“We remain fully committed to our free newspaper portfolio in South London, but it needs to have a cost base that is sustainable.
“Clearly it is regrettable that this restructuring puts a number of roles at risk of redundancy, but we are doing this to ensure that the South London business has a credible future.”