Striking London journalists return to work after ten days on the picket line

Journalists on strike at Newsquest's Sutton headquarters have returned to work today ten days into a 12-day strike as a "goodwill gesture".

It is understood that negotiations over pay, staff numbers and conditions are to continue between representatives from the National Union of Journalists and Newsquest management.

Journalists are particularly concerned about redundancies and the closure of the Petts Wood newsroom.

While the journalists will now resume work on the 11 South London titles published by Newsquest, there could be more industrial action if negotiations fall through.

Speaking to Press Gazette, a journalist, who asked not to be named, said: "It's encouraging that more negotiations are taking place and we're hoping for a satisfactory conclusion to be reached."

They added: "Most people are glad to be getting back to work. Thank you to everyone who has supported us in our incredibly successful campaign so far. "

During the strikes, the weekly newspapers have continued to be published – but some concerns have been expressed over quality.

This Surrey Comet headline appeared on the front page of the 19 June edition. The strike began the previous day.

Knew the Surrey Comet was part of the brave new world of @Newsquestmedia subbing from indecipherable front headline – pic.twitter.com/9Hoqyu1KpZ

— Pete Olympian (@PeteOlympian) June 19, 2015

The Richmond and Twickenham Times promoted a story as appearing on page 47 of a 32-page edition.

'No more slip ups' on page 47 of this week's 32-page Richmond and Twickenham Times @NUJofficial @CutsQuest #nqstrike pic.twitter.com/DLJ4TkYDtA

— Tom Ambrose (@TwickenhamTom) June 26, 2015

The headline on this murder trial report in the Richmond and Twickenham Times attracted criticism on Twitter:

Believe it or not, this headline is on a murder trial. Newsquest amply demonstrate why strike journos should be kept pic.twitter.com/9FTBcdXcwL

— Tristan Kirk (@kirkkorner) June 23, 2015

The dispute is over cuts, pay and a staff restructuring on the Croydon Guardian, Sutton Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Wimbledon Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian, Balham and Tooting Guardian, Mitcham and Morden Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Surrey Comet, Elmbridge Comet, and the Richmond & Twickenham Times. Staff on The News Shopper series, with editions in Dartford, Lewisham, Greenwich, Gravesend, Bexley and Bromley, held a separate two-day strike last week.

The leaders of Merton, Kingston, Sutton, Richmond and Croydon councils have sent a joint letter to Newsquest managing director Gary Kendall.

It said: "We are writing to express our concern at the recent announcement by Newsquest regarding your restructuring, which we believe will lead to a reduction in locally-based reporters and to a serious erosion of your important role in holding elected local politicians to account.  

"As council leaders in south London boroughs, we very much value the contribution to debate that comes from our local newspapers. Although we do not always agree with them on every issue, we have also found your reporters to be both independent and challenging of our councils where required.

"Your reporters do a vital job in covering local stories of interest to residents across south London and to lose this local link would be disastrous. I do hope you will think again about your plans and do all you can to protect your excellent service across south London.”
 
A cross-party letter from London Assembly members said the cuts posed a "real threat to democratic awareness and will undermine these local communities and business sectors. We need local papers of a reasonable quality to ensure democratic scrutiny, accountability and encourage an informed and active citizenship".
 
An early day motion sponsored by Tania Mathias, Conservative MP for Twickenham, has been signed by MPs from all parties, including Peter Bottomley, Tom Brake, Jeremy Corbyn , Paul Flynn, Vicky Foxcroft, Zac Goldsmith, Boris Johnson, Caroline Lucas, Chris Philp, Liz Saville Roberts, Paul Scully and Christopher Stephens.

It said the MPs noted that Newsquest had made large profits in recent years and they were “concerned about the impact that these job losses could have on the quality of local journalism".

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