Newsquest journalists take protest to company HQ

(Pictures courtesy of Daily Echo NUJ chapel and Peter Arkell)

Journalists currently engaged in a protracted dispute with Newsquest have today taken their protest to the headquarters of their employer.

Members of the National Union of Journalists descended on the head office at Weybridge in Surrey this morning to demonstrate against an ongoing pay freeze and job cuts across the regional publishing group.

Union chapels at two Newsquest centres –Brighton and Darlington – are in the second day of a 48-hour strike, while colleagues at the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton are in the final day of a three-day walkout.

Journalists on strike in Darlington yesterday led a march through the town, supported by Darlington Trades Council, to highlight their protest.

A fourth strike at Newsquest’s Herald & Times Group subsidiary in Glasgow was narrowly averted earlier this week when staff decided at an 11th hour chapel meeting not to jeopardise the relaunch this weekend of the Sunday Herald and called of that walkout.

Around 35 Newsquest employees from the striking chapels and NUJ officials joined today’s protest in Weybridge.

Simon Straker, joint FoC of the Daily Echo chapel, told Press Gazette that protesters had been keen to put their case to Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson but he was not at Weybridge when they arrived.

In addition to job losses, unsustainable workloads and the closure of a company pension scheme, Straker said protesters wanted to know why Newsquest refused to negotiate with some staff on pay ahead of the pension scheme being cut back in March.

While some Newsquest chapels in the north had begun pay negotiations following a two-and-a-half year pay freeze, employees in the south are unlike to have pay discussions until April, Straker said, by which time the final salary pension scheme would have closed limiting the contribution of those in the South of England who were members.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: ‘We’re bringing this long-running dispute to the doorstep of Paul Davidson, the man who has refused every attempt by the NUJ to resolve the issues through negotiation and the ACAS conciliation service.

‘We want the people of Weybridge to know that a company based in their town is destroying proper local journalism in many places across the UK.

‘We think Newsquest shareholders also need to recognise that the group’s refusal to talk is endangering their long-term interests, because journalists are very angry and they want justice.

‘Newsquest’s American owners, who are happy to treat our members and their work as a poorly-paid source of profits, need to recognise that in the UK we seek to resolve disputes wherever possible through negotiation rather than confrontation.

“However, Newsquest did say it has no objection to its local journalism centres using the services of ACAS to seek a negotiated settlement.

‘So, the NUJ’s challenge to Newsquest is clear: let’s get round the table and start having some serious talks now. We’re ready to talk – what’s Newsquest waiting for?”

Davidson was not available for comment this afternoon.

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