Leeds journalists to strike over Johnston Press cuts

Journalists at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post are to hold two four-day strikes later this month to protest against compulsory redundancies.

In a secret postal ballot, National Union of Journalists members voted by 109 to three in favour of the series of walkouts.

It follows news that 18 jobs are to be axed at the Johnston Press-owned papers, including the compulsory redundancy of three photographers.

Management were seeking six voluntary redundancies from Yorkshire Post editorial, six from Yorkshire Evening Post editorial, and three picture technicians who serve both papers.

The first of the two strikes will be held next week – from Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 February. Another four-day walkout is planned for Thursday 26 February to Sunday 1 March.

In a statement last month, when the strike ballot was announced, the joint chapel for the two papers said: “The new round of job losses are not genuine redundancies within the definition of the term.

“Redundancy occurs when there is no longer any work for a person to do. In our case the work is still there.

“We believe that, if unchallenged, this is just the start of the reduction in the editorial workforce.”

Staff at the two titles held a protest last month when John Fry, Johnston Press’s new chief executive, visited their offices.

The NUJ estimates that as many as 400 journalists across the country are currentlly preparing to strike in protest at job cuts.

Johnston Press journalists in Derry are currently balloting for industrial action.

NUJ northern regional organiser Chris Morley said yesterday: “The Yorkshire Post and Evening Post chapels have given a lead to all NUJ members fighting against unnecessary and unworkable job cuts.”

Johnston Press north division managing director Chris Green said the publisher could not “responsibly agree” to no compulsory redundancies in the current economic context.

“Over the last few weeks, we have endeavoured to achieve the proposed reduction in editorial staff of 18 through voluntary redundancy and redeployment,” he said.

“Our request focuses mainly on production staff in back office functions and not on our dedicated team of reporters and news gatherers.

“Although we have had some success with redeployment, surprisingly we have had no formal volunteers from Leeds and we are left with no other alternative other than to start the redundancy selection process.”

“Steps have been taken to ensure that the quality and frequency of our publications will not suffer as a result of the NUJ action in Leeds.”

In the last set of regional newspaper ABCs, covering the first half of 2008, the Yorkshire Post fell 6.5 per cent year on year to a daily average of 47,760.

The Yorkshire Evening Post was down 7.2 per cent in the same period, with an average circulation of 53,362.

New data for the second half of last year will be published later this month.

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