NUJ staff to block copy in 'Go north or lose jobs' row

Shown the door: Staff from Express Newspapers at Ludgate House

Express Newspapers’ new policy of ‘Go north or lose your job’ for 90 journalists has angered NUJ staff so much they are to boycott sending copy to the company’s northern centre.

Fifty staff and 40 production casuals are to be offered work at the Northern & Shell printworks at Broughton near Preston in Lancashire – already the production base for the Daily Star Sunday – or redundancy. Some journalists fear this is only the start of more jobs heading out of London.

The NUJ chapel has told management it is refusing to accept the transfer of jobs to Broughton and that it takes the proposals as an attack on everyone working for the papers. "We will not co-operate with this proposal and will send no copy to Broughton," a well-attended meeting decided on Tuesday.

The meeting had heard editorial director Paul Ashford and managing editor Alex Bannister spell out the moves affecting the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday and the titles’ magazines.

A chapel official told Press Gazette: "It would involve relocating all of the down-table subs to Lancashire. It is effectively a redundancy exercise. What they would like to do is cull casuals in London. We are saying ‘No’ to all those options. We will fight to protect the role of casuals as much as staff."

A formal consultation period between N&S, the NUJ and the affected journalists will now begin. The company would like redundancies to be voluntary.

"They have also said they could have done this the Wapping way and we should be happy they are talking to us and that it is not all being done in secrecy," said the chapel official. "That is little comfort to the people who are working here."

A spokesman for N&S boss Richard Desmond stressed: "This not a Wapping. We have started a consultation aimed at moving the work of subbing from the South to the North. There is no set plan. It could involve the transfer of personnel; it could involve the employment of people on a full or part-time basis in Preston. There is no deadline.

"The Express is the only national group which recognises the NUJ and it hopes it will behave in a fairly statesmanlike way in this matter. They might think that if they want other national newspapers to recognise them, perhaps the way they conduct themselves through this consultation may be an interesting template.

"The reason for entering into this consultation is to ensure the prosperity, the growth and the well-being of the existing titles and to make sure the company is in a proper position to potentially grow its interests."

There are 50 full-time subs working in London. There is another meeting today (Friday) for the chapel to hear the company’s response.

By Jean Morgan

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