Northern Echo journalists call off industrial action

Journalists at The Northern Echo and its Newsquest sister papers in Darlington have called off their industrial action after three days of protest at compulsory redundancies and a pay freeze.

At least 60 National Union of Journalists members attended a day-long compulsory chapel meeting on Monday, which started at midday.

Tuesday’s edition of The Northern Echo – a morning paper with a 10.30pm deadline – was described by staff as an ’emergency effort full of agency copy and adverts”.

On Tuesday and today, 90-minute chapel meetings were held, but on both days journalists voted to return to work. Today’s meeting will be the last.

Following Monday’s action, Newsquest North East managing director, David Coates sent staff a memo saying those attending chapel meetings would have that day’s pay docked.

But Press Gazette understands that, following today’s return to work, all staff will be paid as normal. A short statement is expected in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.

One staff member said: ‘We felt we had made our point and shown unity within the chapel.

“If they were to make future cuts, they have seen the strength of the opinion, and strength of feeling.

‘We didn’t feel it was in the best interests of us or the newspaper to prolong the action and hamper the paper.”

Last month, the company asked for £375,000 in savings from editorial budgets, which equated to 17 jobs. After reducing freelance costs, 11 jobs were lost, of which three were compulsory.

In addition, pay has been frozen, and five district offices – at Thirsk, Richmond, Redcar, Stockton and Barnard Castle – have closed, leaving offices in Darlington, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Northallerton.

Despite the action ending, some journalists remain angry at the threat to dock pay.

‘Members took exception to the line about loyalty being called into question,’one member of staff told Press Gazette.

‘For the recent King’s Head fire [a major town centre blaze that started after deadline, but still made that morning’s edition] people came in at all hours.”

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