Newsquest faces strike ahead of Sunday Herald relaunch

Journalists working at Herald Group newspapers in Glasgow will become the latest Newsquest employees to strike when they walk out later this week in protest against a series of compulsory redundancies.

According to the National Union of Journalists up to 170 staff – almost the entire editorial workforce – on the Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times titles are expected to take part in a 48-hour strike on Thursday and Friday in protest against the job losses.

Six editorial staff were made compulsorily redundant before Christmas as part of drive by local management to make around half-a-million pounds worth of savings on the Sunday Herald newspaper – which is to be relaunched as a magazine this weekend.

According to the NUJ the relaunch is an alternative plan as Newsquest’s senior management had originally wanted to close the loss-making paper, whose circulation, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, had fallen to a weekly average of 41,464 in November (down from 43,173 in the same period a year earlier).

The compulsory redundancies come in addition to six editorial staff accepting voluntary redundancy terms to leave. A total of 22 staff across all departments lost their jobs.

A final decision on strike action is expected following a National Union of Journalists chapel meeting this afternoon.

Union members are unhappy that those six sacked employees are only being offered statutory redundancy terms of one week’s pay (up to a maximum of £380) for every full year of service – or a week-and-a-half for those over 41 years-of-age.

NUJ officials believe the terms break a house agreement for enhanced terms and are considering possible legal action over the consultation process that led toa number of the job losses being based on a ‘job scoring system”.

‘The editor-in-chief [Jonathan Russell] is stuck between a rock and a hard place,’Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser told Press Gazette.

‘He knows he does not have the editorial resources to put these papers out – some staff are working 14-hour days – this situation is just not sustainable.”

Holleran said if the company reintroduced its policy of offering enhanced terms it was likely the strike would not take place as more volunteers would come forward and accept redundancy.

‘We would return to normal, there would be no legal challenge and it would be a much simpler situation,’he added.

Journalists from the Herald are set to join colleagues across the country when they walk out later this week. Newsquest editorial staff in Brighton and Southampton will be staging their third strike in protest at local job losses and a pay freeze which has been in place for almost three years.

Other Newsquest centres are also expected to walk out on Thursday and Friday in protest to the pay freeze.

The relaunch of the Sunday Herald as a news magazine marks the most significant change to the paper in its 11-year history. The paper revealed the planned changes to readers in an editorial last weekend.

‘The most striking aspect of the new Sunday Herald is that it will be published as a one-section stitched news magazine,’the editorial said.

‘Its 92 pages will be printed on top-quality, enhanced paper which will better project the quality of our journalism and the design and photographic skills which last year won us the title of Europe’s best weekly newspaper.

‘The new-look Sunday Herald will continue to provide first-class, up-to-the-minute coverage of news (international and national) sport, arts and books, fashion, food and business.

‘But we will do so in a different way, going behind the headlines and offering in-depth analysis, reportage and investigations…

‘We have been working for weeks on ideas for the new Sunday Herald. You’ll have the chance to see the fruits of those labours next Sunday.

‘We believe the new ideas, new design and new features will offer readers a distinctive package unlike anything else being produced in Scotland.”

A spokesman for the Herald & Times Group said the company hoped the NUJ chapel meeting this afternoon decided not to go ahead with the strike.

“Only a minority – 61 of 164 members in the chapel, which includes The Herald, Evening Times and Sunday Herald – had backed a strike in a formal ballot last month,” the spokesman added.

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