Newsquest North East staff to ballot on strike action

Journalists working for Newsquest in northeast England are balloting on possible industrial action in protest at proposed redundancies and a continuing pay freeze across the group.

Members of the National Union of Journalists on Newsquest’s Darlington and Stockton Times, the Durham Times and the Advertiser series have been angered by proposals to merge productionof the daily and weekly titles with the loss of eight jobs.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “The proposed redundancies spell disaster for the titles. It is a short-sighted policy that will result in lower quality and readership declining, as editorial staff are stretched ever more thinly.

“Staff are shocked at Newsquest’s preparedness to jettison so many of their most valuable assets – experienced, dedicated staff who have been responsible for the success of the titles.

“We are not prepared to stand by and allow Newsquest to press ahead with their plans for staff redundancies and, ultimately, business suicide.”

Staff have also have passed a motion of no confidence in the chief executives of Newsquest and its US parent company, Gannett, condemning the group’s “pay hypocrisy”.

The motion states: “We hold no confidence in Craig Dubow, chief executive of Gannett, for permitting a pay time bomb to grow and grow to the point where members of staff have now gone 1,045 days without a pay rise, a wage freeze that has not been shared at the executive level.

“We hold no confidence in Paul Davidson, chief executive of Newsquest, who accepted a pay rise of £106,000 while maintaining a pay freeze on staff.

“Were he to forego that pay rise, most of the redundancies now being made would not have to be made. If things are as bad as they are made out to be, why does he not receive a pay cut?

“In addition he has seen his pension contributions rise by £59,500, at a time when members are facing the closure of the company pension scheme.”

The NUJ also said it had no confidence in David Coates, managing director of Newsquest North-East, and criticised him for not being present when ‘fundamental changes’to the production of the flagship titles in Darlington were announced.

A request from Press Gazette for comment from Coates has yet to be returned.

The ballot in the North East comes as journalists working on Newsquest Hampshire called off a second planned 48-hour strike which was due to start this week.

Staff at the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton called off a second 48-hour strike, due to take place on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 November in the hope that Newsquest management will enter into genuine negotiations over pay.

Journalists working for Newsquest on the Brighton Argus last week voted to strike over the continuing pay freeze and proposed job cuts.

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