The National Union of Journalists is preparing to challenge the Government at the European Court of Human Rights over laws that led it to call off planned strike action at Johnston Press.
Lawyer John Hendy QC is preparing a case on the union’s behalf to test employment laws around an individual’s right to freedom of association.
Journalists across Johnston Press, the UK’s second largest regional newspaper publisher, were due to hold a group-wide strike on 19 May in protest at staff cuts and the introduction of controversial new content management system, Atex.
But the one-day stoppage was called off after a legal challenge by Johnston Press which argued that it does not employ any journalists, saying instead that they were employed by a network of autonomous local companies.
Union chapel officials at Johnston Press met last month to discuss replacing the group-wide action with a series of individual strike ballots at the various centres.
However, Press Gazette understands that the appetite for widespread action may have now gone.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear told Press Gazette: “It is clearly absurd that a company which employs hundreds of journalists can use legal technicalities to deny the human right of an individual to withdraw their labour.
“The law has become so complex, the courts decisions so perverse that it is now a legal minefield to conduct an industrial action ballot.
“The law is so weighted in favour of employers that employees’ human rights are not being upheld.
“In order to challenge the way the law operates we will pursue a case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“We have won there before and are confident we will do so again. The law should not frustrate the democratic will of those who choose to withdraw their labour. “