Strike ballot at Newsquest North West

Newsquest‘s redundancy-threatened journalists in the North West will hold a strike ballot next week.

NUJ members passed a unanimous vote to begin the week-long ballot next Tuesday in protest at Newsquest’s plans to axe seven jobs in the region.

The company told staff last week that it wants to axe three sub-editors, three reporters and a photographer across the Warrington Guardian, the Sale and Altrincham Messenger, and the Northwich Guardian.

It comes after a news editor, sports editor and three reporters recently handed in their notice at the company’s Blackburn office.

The NUJ also claimed last week that several journalists had left the Warrington office in the last six months and had yet to be replaced.

While the news editor and sports editors are set to be replaced, the local chapel fears that only one new reporter will be brought in to replace the three that left in Blackburn.

Press Gazette also understands that shift payments for weekend work in the North West are to be cut.

Local organiser Lawrence Shaw accused Newsquest of ‘penny pinching”, citing the company’s latest company accounts showing it made a £6.7m operating profit in the region in 2010.

Several of the journalists who have left the company’s Blackburn office arebunderstood to have joined the BBC’s new Media City HQ in Salford.

Shaw said there were now fears of a ‘brain drain’to the BBC unless regional publishers like Newsquest improved working conditions for journalists.

‘Newspapers are going to have to up their game to stop talent going there,’he said. ‘It’s not a mass exodus yet but I think Blackburn is a case in point. I think there will be others, because not everyone is moving up from London and there are vacancies.

‘What you will see are more experienced, senior journalists in the North West and wider region making the move. What are newspapers are going to do to keep their senior people? It’s not just about pay but about working conditions, and they haven’t quite caught up.’

Newsquest was unavailable for comment.

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