Nationals donate thousands to striking regional journalists

Striking journalists from Leeds have returned from a tour of national newspaper chapels with thousands of pounds in donations.

National Union of Journalists members at the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, and sister weeklies have held 13 strike days this year in protest at Johnston Press‘s plans for compulsory redundancies.

This week, Yorkshire Evening Post reporters Richard Edwards and Peter Lazenby, who is also father of the joint chapel at the papers, spoke at national newspaper NUJ chapel meetings in London.

On Wednesday, Edwards spoke to journalists at the BBC, The Guardian, and the Financial Times.

Yesterday, Lazenby spoke to The Daily Telegraph, Thomson Reuters, the Daily Express and Daily Star, and the “Defend Jobs, Defend Education” rally, attended by more than 200 people.

Lazenby told Press Gazette: “It went very well. Richard came back with over £1,000 in donations, and lots of valuable support.

“The journalists I spoke to were very supportive in how we were fighting back in Leeds. Quite a lot of their papers are being subject to redundancies, and we said you don’t have to accept it – you can fight back.

“The message is, people are getting angrier and angrier. Compulsory redundancies are no longer being accepted in the workplace. There’s a fightback on.

“I think it’s no coincidence that after we went on strike, there are four other chapels balloting for action against compulsory redundancies.”

Lazenby stressed the dispute wasn’t just about job losses – the chapel say they also trying to maintain the quality of Leeds’s two daily newspapers.

In the second half of 2008, according to ABC, circulation at the Yorkshire Post fell 6.8 per cent to 45,718, and the Yorkshire Evening Post fell 12 per cent to 49,064.

“If you value quality, then you have to defend that against bosses who seem to have no concern about the quality of their newspapers,” said Lazenby.

“They [management] seem to think it’s like running a baked beans factory: you just cut costs, speed up the conveyor belt, and keep the profits coming in.

“Journalists have to fight back, and not just roll over and accept it. That’s what we hope other chapels will do in the future. We feel we have been a bit of a lightning conductor.”

The Leeds chapel has not set a date for further industrial action, but plans to take more action before its ballot mandate expires on 6 May.

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