Trinity Mirror Midlands staff consider strike action as ballot papers are sent out

Ballot papers were today sent to NUJ members affected by 65 compulsory redundancies planned for Trinity Mirror‘s Midlands titles as staff decide whether to strike over the cuts and wide-ranging changes to staff jobs.

Journalists at the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury and Coventry Telegraph are now making their minds up whether to strike or to opt for action short of a strike, over the plans announced last month

All jobs on the newspapers are effectively being made redundant and staff are being invited to apply for the changed roles in the new set-up.

Trinity plans to radically alter the structure of the papers by merging editors from the Post and Mail into one platform-neutral content desk to which journalists contribute print and online stories simultaneously.

NUJ Midlands organiser Chris Morley met with Trinity regional managing director Steve Brown on Monday after meeting with the affected chapels last week. He put a list of demands to Brown from members, including that there should be no compulsory cuts and a reduced number of job losses. He also asked for increased payments and clearer job roles for the staff that remain.

Morley said he was unhappy with Brown’s response. He said: ‘I am extremely disappointed. He doesn’t seem to have picked up that if they are going to have this painful process we are going to need a workforce that feels positive about the future and is not poisoned by the real emotional fallout that comes from compulsory redundancies.

‘If people choose not to be part of the future then they will go but the company needs to reassure them on the future if they are staying and they need to make it feasible to leave the company if they don’t want to stay.

‘A possible outcome for the company is that people apply for jobs that they don’t believe in just to get in there, leaving it with a workforce that doesn’t believe in what it sees as the future.”

NUJ Midlands Branch chairman Alan Taman took issue claims made by Trinity chief executive Sly Bailey in the September issue of Press Gazette that the company was investing in journalism.

In a letter to the magazine he wrote: ‘How can they expect people to believe that the company wants to invest in them when they are summarily sacked?

‘Not surprisingly, the NUJ is opposing compulsory redundancies and will fight for better conditions for those who remain.

‘Whatever premise the future holds, treating skilled people like a disposable asset while asking them to do more should lie very firmly in the past.”

Steve Brown, regional managing director for the Midlands at Trinity, said that although he understands the anxiety the staff are feeling, strike action will help nobody.

He said: ‘We are very keen to work with the local NUJ chapels to address the questions and concerns that are being raised. We also want to encourage genuine involvement and input as the various plans are shaped. However, the threat of strike action is helpful to nobody – it will just distract us from the important work and consultation that is needed.

“I’m not sure what advantage any form of industrial action can achieve. The stakes are simply too high for us to be deflected from the action we have to take. Ultimately we have to create a solid and workable platform for the hundreds of journalists and other staff who will be part of the business going forward and collectively we need our energy and attention devoted to that. Trying to disrupt, delay or de-rail this process can only be harmful to all concerned.”

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