Strike at Telegraph, as Express staff face City desk closure

The Telegraph's fledgling high-tech multimedia newsroom is to be hit by a walk-out of up to 276 journalists.

The action follows an official strike ballot in protest at 54 editorial redundancies and changes to working practices following the move from Canary Wharf to Victoria this month. NUJ members say they are particularly concerned about imposed changes, such as Saturday working for sub-editors and early morning starts for reporters.

Of some 276 NUJ members eligible to vote in the ballot, 114 did so and 85 said "yes" to a possible strike.

According to Telegraph Group management, the company has 465 full-time journalists.

The strike will take place from 14 to 16 November.

At an NUJ chapel meeting held on Wednesday, some 90 voted in favour of the strike and 12 voted against. The vote is binding on all NUJ members at the papers.

In 2005, the Telegraph Group chapel voted in favour of strike action following 90 editorial redundancies — but then it backed down after concessions were made by management. Telegraph Group NUJ father of chapel John Carey said of the ballot result: "Throughout the past 10 months, ever since the move to Victoria was announced, the company has completely ignored the proper consultation process laid down both in law and in our house agreement as regards job cuts and changes in working practices — and it's continuing to do so."

Telegraph management said following the ballot that it was "regrettable, given the massive amount of investment that is taking place at Victoria in the future of the Telegraph. It also comes on the eve of further announcements about new colour printing facilities, combined with the latest mailroom technology."

Meanwhile, at Express Newspapers, some 35 staff journalists and a further 20 full-time casuals are to be made redundant as part of widespread cutbacks, which include the closure of the entire Daily Express City department.

Some 14 Express journalists are facing the sack as the newspaper outsources its business news to the Press Association. Staff have been told that the travel desk could also be outsourced.

There have been successive cuts at Express Newspapers since 2000, when Richard Desmond bought the Express and Star titles for £125 million. Since then, according to company accounts, he has paid himself up to £1 million a week.

NUJ members at the Express were this week planning to enlist the support of City chief executives as part of a bid to persuade Desmond not to close the business department.

In a letter to staff, Express group editorial director Paul Ashford spoke of "very difficult market conditions" and "unprecedented competition not only from other newspapers, but also from freesheets and electronic media".

Guardian journalists were this week considering a new pay offer from management as they continue to ballot over possible strike action.

The 80-odd journalists who work on the website, rather than the newspaper, have been offered some £500,000 extra. According to the NUJ, this would typically mean pay rises of between £6,000 and £12,000 per year for each journalist. All journalists have been offered a basic 3 per cent rise.

According to Guardian management, the pay rises followed a detailed "skills matrix" exercise to compare roles of web and newspaper staff, and the offer is seen as a long-term solution to the disparities between the two.


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