York Press journalists vote in favour of strike action

Journalists in the North East fought back at Newsquest cost-cutting yesterday.

In York, National Union of Journalists members at The Press voted 85 per cent in favour of strike action against the threat of compulsory redundancies.

In a separate ballot, members voted 72 per cent in favour of other forms of industrial action in protest at a pay freeze.

NUJ assistant organiser Jenny Lennox said: ‘The ballot result shows a clear determination by our members to stand up in defence of any colleague under threat of compulsory redundancy.

“We need to see clear guarantees from management that nobody will be forced to leave.”

At Darlington, where The Northern Echo and sister weeklies are based, more than 50 NUJ members held the first of three mandatory chapel meetings, leaving the newsroom at midday.

Members are angry at January’s inflation-based pay rises being cancelled. Another mandatory meeting is expected this afternoon, and a third on Wednesday. Members voted by more than 90 per cent last month in favour of action.

NUJ regional organiser Chris Morley said: ‘There’s been a strong turnout because people have simply had enough of the disregard with which Newsquest views local journalism.

‘A fine institution of the North East is being eroded by management that is more interested in maintaining big profits than serving the local community.

‘Our members don’t want to spend their time sitting around in a café [where yesterday’s meeting was held]. They want to be out there reporting on their local area, bringing people the news that holds their community together.

‘But they feel they need to take a stand to protect the long-term future of quality journalism in the region.”

As well as the pay freeze, The Northern Echo’s district offices at Redcar, Stockton, Thirsk, Barnard Castle, and Richmond closed this month – leaving just three district offices in Northallerton, Bishop Auckland and Durham.

Initially, 17 compulsory redundancies were also proposed, but reducing fixed freelance costs means there is likely to be just one. A handful of staff took voluntary redundancy.

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