Last minute talks aimed at averting a strike by Newsquest journalists working at the publisher’s south London office have broken down, with fresh industrial action set to go ahead next week.
Members of the National Union of Journalists will go on strike for seven days from 13 October followed by an indefinite work to rule action, the NUJ has said.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “Newsquest’s behaviour is disingenuous to say the least. Chapel members agreed to suspend industrial action in good faith to meet for meaningful talks.
“Sadly their scepticism about the company’s willingness to address the real crunch issue of headcount has proved well founded and has only reinforced chapel resolve.”
The dispute is over staffing levels, workloads, pay, health and safety and what union members claim has been a drop in the quality of local journalism as a result of repeat cuts.
Action follows the company’s announcement last month that 27 out of 29 members of editorial staff at the Sutton office are at risk of redundancy as 11 jobs are set to be cut.
The NUJ has said fresh strike action is the result of the Croydon Guardian, one of the titles produced at the Sutton hub, being left with no reporters in less than a week’s time with the Wandsworth Guardian currently having no reporters.
Davison added: “Simply moving the deckchairs on the Titanic is not going to solve the fact that as of next week there will be no reporters on one title and that another has limped along without cover for several weeks.
“Local management needs to get real, make the case to the top that these positions need filling and crack on with doing it.
“We welcome the brilliant support that the chapel has had as they stand up for quality local journalism in the face of Newsquest’s unscrupulous tactics.”
A chapel spokesperson said: “Strike action is always the last resort, but we are 100 pre cent united to take action next week.
“We have been left with no other option because of Newsquest’s appalling plans to destroy our livelihoods, local newspaper titles and websites.”
The titles and websites affected include the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.
Newsquest is owned by US newspaper publisher Gannett.
A spokesperson said: “Contrary to the hyperbole coming out of NUJ central office, Newsquest believes passionately in the future of local journalism.
“We very much regret that this restructuring of the free newspapers in south London puts certain roles at risk, but it is precisely to ensure that these titles can continue to support local journalism that their costs need to come down to a more sustainable level.
“We hope the NUJ will think this through.”