Journalists on indefinite strike in South Yorkshire claim work placement students as young as 16 are being used to undermine their industrial action.
The NUJ claimed that at the Selby Times – one of four Johnston Press titles affected by the strike – a 16-year-old has been asked to extend his work experience by a week ‘by bosses desperate to ensure the paper is printed on time”.
The NUJ said the teenager had originally approached the paper asking to shadow the sports editor – but has since been asked to work on both news and sports stories.
The strike began on Friday and saw the Selby Times reduced to just a sports editor and editor, who the NUJ said was on holiday for Friday and much of Monday, leading to ‘desperate staffing measures”.
The union also said journalists at the Doncaster Free Press, another paper involved in the dispute, believe ‘young people on work experience are being used to help publish their paper this week, as almost all the paper’s journalists are on indefinite strike”.
NUJ negotiator Lawrence Shaw is now calling for a ‘full and unambiguous assurance’management are not relying on ‘youngsters and students working for free’to get the papers out on time.
‘If SYN [South Yorkshire Newspapers] management were found to be abusing the goodwill of youngsters to break the strike it would be utterly unforgiveable,’he said.
‘They need to make it clear they are not doing this.”
Johnston Press was asked to comment on the claims this morning but declined.
Reporters from the Doncaster Free Press, South Yorkshire Times, Selby Times and Epworth Bells went out on indefinite strike on Friday following a unanimous ballot in protest at Johnston Press’s plans to cut 18 jobs.
Johnston also plans to axe the editor of the South Yorkshire Times, the sports editor of the Doncaster Free Press and the editor of the Goole Courier, and to merge the Goole and Selby Times operations under one editor.
Staff have unanimously passed a second vote of no confidence in South Yorkshire Newspapers editor-in-chief Graeme Huston.