Staff at NI's Newry Democrat to strike next week

Journalists on the Newry Democrat, a weekly paper in Northern Ireland, are to strike next week in protest at a decision to make four production staff redundant.

The National Union of Journalists said today that editorial staff members on the Democrat intend to join a one-day strike on Monday unless their publisher agrees to negotiations with the union.

According to the union, managers at Alpha Newspaper Group are making four production posts at the paper redundant on minimum statutory terms.

NUJ negotiator Ian McGuinness called on Alpha to reinstate staff or offer enhanced redundancy payments.

He said: ‘The union continues to oppose Alpha’s decision to make all four editorial production posts redundant.

‘These staff gave many years loyal service. Their work was of a very high standard and they were crucial for the publication of a quality local newspaper.

‘The very least that Alpha can do is to increase their miserly statutory redundancy payments.

‘Lord Kilclooney [owner of the group], who recently appeared on Ireland’s Rich List, can afford to make payments beyond the statutory minimum.”

Alpha took ownership of the Newry Democrat in November, just a few months after closing three papers in the Republic of Ireland. They were the Roscommon Champion, Longford News and Athlone Voice.

Alpha Newspaper Group managing director Jonathan Taylor told Press Gazette that the Newry Democrat would have closed if Alpha Newspapers had not acquired it and that it was still loss-making. He said management had consulted with the NUJ over possible ways to reduce its losses and added that the union had not come up with anything.

He said that he was confident that the paper could be turned around with the support of the staff because it has a good circulation (reaching 30,000 readers) and is held in high regard in the community it serves.

Taylor disputed that the four staff affected were editorial production saying that they were involved in advertising page layout.

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