Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sing when you're winning

After the conclusion of this year's pay deal, NUJ members at Newsquest York rounded off their campaign with a social event at the city's Minster Inn on July 16.

The evening, atttended by most chapel members, featured subeditor-striker-singer Richard Foster performing his popular strike song Things I Learnt This Year as well as a new tune about the dispute: Gannett Mean And Petty. Click on the picture above to see video of his performance. His set list also included Bob Dylan's You Ain't Going Nowhere, Billy Bragg's Between the Wars, Part of the Union by The Stawbs and, of course, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. More videos are available on the chapel's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/nujyork

Friday, July 11, 2008

First with the news

The conclusion of our recent pay deal has been covered across the trade press: on the Media Guardian website, Hold The Front Page, Journalism.co.uk and the media industry weekly Press Gazette.

Some of the stories were changed after management refuted the fact that new trainees will get an increase of 17% (going from £13,449 to £16,188) after a three-month probationary period rate was scrapped. This is, in fact, the case and it will make a real difference to new starters who are struggling with student debt and rising living costs in an expensive city like York. We have also set a new baseline in the fight against low pay.

In traditional Newsquest style, the bosses did not issue a statement themselves. Who would have thought we work in the communications industry? Likewise, The Press's own coverage of the pay deal was meagre at best. A small nib on page seven of today's paper reads:
Pay offer accepted
Members of the National Union of Journalists at The Press have accepted the company's three per cent pay offer, ending a ten-month dispute. NUJ members at the newspaper and its sister title, the weekly Gazette & Herald, owned by the Newsquest Media Group, staged a five-day strike in May following a deadlock in talks. Agreement has now been reached following further talks between management, NUJ officials and the arbitration service ACAS.
The chapel had requested for a detailed, fair article covering the conclusion of the dispute, allowing also a comment from an NUJ spokesman. Sadly, in the end this was not permitted.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Job cuts figure is cut

John Greenway, the Conservative MP for Ryedale in North Yorkshire, has written to chapel officers saying he is concerned about the situation facing journalists at The Press and the Gazette & Herald. He said he will be writing to Paul Davidson, chairman and chief executive of Newsquest Media Group, expressing his concerns. He will also be copying his letter to David Coates, Newsquest's regional managing director, and Steve Hughes, Newsquest's man in York. We applaud John for his staunch support for quality local journalism.

The chapel had some positive news this week when management revealed it is now only looking at making five redundancies within the editorial department, rather than the eight originally planned. Editor Kevin Booth also told NUJ members that no compulsory redundancies would be made after nine journalists applied for voluntary redundancy. An announcement on which areas of the newsroom will be hit is expected early next week when the "consultation period" reaches a conclusion.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Making the links

Our dispute with management has certainly brought us closer to other trade unionists in York and beyond. We were buoyed by the support we had during our five-day strike and we have tried to return the favour.

So when we received a call from Communication Workers Union (CWU) reps asking for assistance we were only too happy to help. On Wednesday, one of our NUJ members took part in a CWU media school for postal worker reps at the union's office in Gillygate, York. He discussed the inner workings of a local newspaper and gave advice on how to approach the media, before taking part in a filmed mock interview of a CWU rep.

On the same day one of our number visited the Leeds NUJ Branch to speak about the dispute and what we see as ongoing struggles within the newspaper industry against low pay. Our colleagues in Leeds showed huge solidarity during our strike - donating some £750 in all to our fund - so we were pleased to be able to thank them personally.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pay deal's signed and sealed

Journalists in York have reached agreement with bosses at Newsquest, bringing a ten-month long dispute to a close. As a result of the deal negotiations on 2009 pay will be brought forward and are expected to begin within weeks. Further talks are also planned to improve the union’s recognition agreement and the company’s pay banding structure.

NUJ members at The Press and the Gazette & Herald newspapers voted to accept a 3 per cent salary increase, but pledged to continue their fight for decent pay. The agreement ends a long-running campaign by the 33-strong NUJ chapel, which staged a five-day strike in May and another day of industrial action last month.

The agreed deal, which will be backdated to January, includes an increase of almost 17 per cent for new trainees and a 13 per cent rise in payments to specialist reporters. It takes the basic rate for senior journalists over £20,000 for the first time and includes increases in meal allowances and extra cash for Bank Holiday working.

Shortly after their second round of action, NUJ members were hit by news of eight redundancies planned in the editorial department. A total of 29 jobs are to go within Newsquest’s York division – about 14 per cent of the workforce.

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate said: “These savage cuts demonstrate just what Newsquest employees are up against. The chapel still feels we deserve an above-inflation pay rise that recognises our hard work and commitment. But we also feel duty bound to secure the best deal possible for those who are forced out. We will resist any compulsory redundancies and we will carry on our battle against low pay. In the coming weeks chapel members will begin drawing up next year’s claim.”

Sam thanked all those who had supported the chapel during the long-running dispute. He said: “We were overwhelmed by the support our campaign received from fellow journalists and trade unionists across the country. From readers, local councillors and MPs the message was loud and clear: the job our members do is highly valued by this community. Our hope is that Newsquest bosses have come to recognise this fact and will begin to invest in their skilled and dedicated team of journalists.”

Joint Father of Chapel Tony Kelly added: “We hope Newsquest management has realised the anger and frustration felt by their staff over low pay, overwork and understaffing. We now look forward to taking part in meaningful discussions that aim seriously to address these ongoing problems.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pressing home the message

We learned today that two more of our colleagues are facing redundancy, this time in Newsquest York's advertising department. It takes the tally to 29 from a workforce of about 210; the chapel rightly feels these cuts will be devastating to the long-term future of both The Press and the Gazette & Herald.

We raised the issue at a full meeting of City of York Council on Monday when joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate went along to speak. He thanked those councillors from all parties who supported NUJ members during our five-day strike in May and spelt out the situation journalists at the company are now facing, before detailing the threat to democracy and the local community posed by cuts and a deterioration in the regional press.

In other news, we have heard from City of York MP Hugh Bayley, who said in a letter to the chapel he is concerned about the situation at Newsquest York following the redundancy plans. He said:
"York would lose a valuable asset if its daily paper closed or if the quality of its coverage declined. The media have an important role as public watchdogs, and the national media do not examine the range of issues covered by regional and local papers. There is an overriding public interest in keeping local papers going."

Friday, June 27, 2008

That Friday feeling...

Another Friday afternoon, another letter from managing director Steve Hughes lands on the chapel's desk. You have to admire management for their consistency - we could set our watches by these 4.50pm letters. In any case, negotiations over our 2008 pay award are still ongoing. We'll report here when there's some concrete progress.

In more encouraging news, the chapel strike fund today received a brilliant donation of £400 from the Oxford NUJ Branch. Our thanks to our fellow trade unionists there, many of whom have experience of Newsquest's corrosive policies first-hand at the Oxford Mail.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Talking about the dispute

Following a visit to the TUC Trades Councils Conference in Sheffield last weekend, we were invited to speak at Leeds Trades Union Council (TUC) about our dispute.

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate attended the TUC's meeting last night and gave the background to our five-day strike in May, where the situation is now with the planned redundancies and the ongoing negotiations. (Chapel and national NUJ officers met with management and ACAS yesterday but a deal has not been agreed.)

There was a good discussion about the dispute in a question and answer session and Leeds TUC donated £50 towards the chapel's strike fund, for which we are very grateful.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reporting the redundancies

News of the eight planned redundancies (in addition to one post remaining unfilled) among editorial staff at The Press and the Gazette & Herald has reached the trade press, with Press Gazette and Hold The Front Page both covering the story.

Hold The Front Page also has news of more brutal job cuts by Newsquest at the Northern Echo, based in Darlington. There, ten editorial posts are to be axed through non-replacement of staff and early retirements, rather than redundancies, which gives some idea of how below-strength this rapacious company runs its newsrooms.

The NUJ website nationally also covers the stories, with its coverage of the York job cuts making clear that management's "consultation" is a sham as union representatives have been given no details of so-called restructuring plans. It also features the news from Darlington

In today's Press, meanwhile, there is a 150-word filler setting out how "difficult trading conditions" have forced the company to cut jobs. Managing director Steve Hughes says the company must "expand and contract with the market", which is utter nonsense: staff in York suffered cutsbacks and redundancies throughout the good economic times, during which Newsquest scarcely invested a penny. No response from NUJ reps
was permitted.

Archbishop's prayers for pickets

Divine assistance may soon grace the NUJ's campaign for fair pay at The Press and the Gazette & Herald. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, responded to a letter from the chapel making him aware of the planned strike action by offering prayers for chapel members.

He wrote: "I was saddened to read of the strike action at the York Press and the difficulties you have experienced in trying to reach agreement thus far. Please keep me informed of developments and be assured of my prayers for your members during this difficult time."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Swingeing cuts' slammed

This is our latest press release on the dispute, issued to local media tonight. Another piece of news you won't read in the pages of The Press tomorrow...
Members of the National Union of Journalists at The Press and Gazette & Herald have vowed to fight compulsory redundancies after the newspapers' owners Newsquest announced the loss of eight jobs in the editorial department.

The swingeing cuts, which follow on from severe job losses across York's daily newspaper just 16 months ago, have been made as the NUJ chapel at York is still locked in a battle over fair pay.

Ironically, on the very day the NUJ entered talks with conciliation service ACAS over trying to resolve their nine-month long dispute over pay, management revealed the shock news.

There are also job losses elsewhere at the Walmgate offices with cuts in the pre-press department, among the drivers, cleaners and engineers and also in the press hall. All told, job losses amount to about a tenth of the 200-plus Newsquest York workforce.

Journalists voiced their anger at the cuts which, if implemented, will weaken the proud and distinguished traditions of a newspaper which has been operating in the city for 125 years.

"It is not as if Newsquest York are not making money. They raked in a profit of £4.3 million last year, but again they are imposing cuts on a workforce which is being dictated to by its American owners Gannett," said NUJ joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Sam Southgate.

"As journalists we are proud to serve the community with integrity and dedication, but it is obvious the employers do not share that same faith by yet again hacking at those people who work tirelessly for the company.

"We are certain the quality of the company's core product will be fatally damaged. These planned job losses represent utter disregard for the community of York whom we are privileged to serve and will inevitably lead to a drop in its standing.

"We are totally opposed to the idea of compulsory redundancies and are prepared to fight them as much as possible. If these losses are implemented they will drive another nail into the well-being and reputation of The Press and that will be to the detriment of its loyal readership."

The axe swings again

Those who thought Newsquest had already cut its York operations back to the bone were clearly mistaken. In the face of the economic downturn and anticipating a fall in its profits due to slacker advertising revenue, the company is once again planning to cut jobs.

We learned last Friday - a day after a regal visit from Newsquest chairman and chief executive Paul Davidson - that 18 of our colleagues are to be made redundant - nine van drivers, two cleaners, two printers and five pre-press staff. Today, just minutes before chapel reps were due to begin mediation with ACAS over our outstanding pay claim, management dropped a bombshell for the company's journalists.

Editor Kevin Booth told staff of plans to axe eight journalists' posts. A current reporting vacancy will not be filled, making a total of nine redundancies. No details were provided about which departments will be hit, but the editor said photographers, graphic artists and admin staff (all with virtually no union members) would be safe.

At a chapel meeting held later that day, members were rightly furious about the planned cuts, which are being replicated at Newsquest centres across the country. Two years ago, the company made nine editorial staff redundant but there was no decline in workloads, on the contrary. It seems we can expect the same scenario this time.

Chapel members committed themselves to opposing any compulsory redundancies and mounting a campaign to save quality local journalism in York and North Yorkshire, which we believe is being destroyed by Newsquest's slash and burn policies. We will be fighting for every one of our union colleagues who is under threat and making sure management engage in full assessment, consultation and representation as provided for in law.

We'll have more on our campaign soon...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spreading the word in Sheffield

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate addresses the TUC Trades Councils' Conference. Picture: Sid Frisby

We were honoured to be invited by NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear to speak at the TUC Trades Councils' Conference 2008 at Sheffield Town Hall, which was held over the weekend.

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate went along and told about 70 delegates from all over the country of our five-day strike, the background to the dispute and Newsquest's policies, and our continuing campaign for decent pay. Many delegates were based in areas where Newsquest has operations, so they understood well what we are up against. Others said two of the key issues raised during the conference were how to encourage young trade unionists (the majority of our members at The Press and the Gazette & Herald are in their 20s) and how to assist those involved in disputes, so our appeal was a perfect fit.

A motion was passed to urge delegates to do all they could to back NUJ members in York - including signing our petition, pressing MPs to sign our Early Day Motion, and sending messages of solidarity and donations for our strike fund. A collection among delegates during the conference raised £210 for our fund - an amazing sum for which we offer sincere thanks.

If you would like an NUJ member from Newsquest York to speak at your union branch or chapel meeting, please get in touch by emailing nujyork@gmail.com

Railing against low pay

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate on the picket line at the National Railway Museum. Picture: John Jones

During our five-day strike, we were overwhelmed by the support we received from fellow journalists, trade unionists and members of the public.


So when workers at the city's National Railway Museum (NRM) went on strike on Friday, June 13, we made sure to show our solidarity with the PCS and Prospect union members there. Like our campaign, their action was over pay. They are taking a stand against an offer worth just three per cent for 2007, and a derisory 2.7 per cent this year.

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate visited the picket line, in Leeman Road, in the morning and took a message from the chapel which had been agreed during our seven-and-a-half hour mandatory meeting the previous day.

Later, a whip-round among NUJ members raised about £20. Because the members did not have a strike fund, we used the cash to buy a load of chocolate and fudge goodies for the strikers.

We send our union colleagues at the NRM best wishes for success in their struggle. They are forecasting further action this summer, and if they strike again NUJ members will once more be standing side-by-side with them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ignored while bosses sip champagne

NUJ representatives today leafleted outside the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards to raise awareness for members currently taking action in York.

Staff at The Press helped their paper to a nomination in the Scoop Of The Year category, but were not invited to the awards - only the management attended.

NUJ Assistant Organiser, Jenny Lennox, said: "It is shameful that managers from Newsquest York are in London sipping champagne while their staff are struggling on low pay. To not even reward the journalists who earned them the nomination shows the contempt they have for their staff.

"The papers should recognise their award-winning staff and give them award-winning pay deals, not below inflation pay rises and worse deals than other titles."

Journalists at Newsquest-owned titles in York have been continuing their action this week by holding mandatory chapel meetings. Despite threats from management that any journalist who was late for work would be sent home without pay, yesterday's inaugural meeting was well attended.

NUJ members met for seven-and-a-half hours from 8am and returned to work en-masse after discussing ways to take their protests further. The managing director then sent home journalists from the morning shifts with no pay but those on the late shifts were allowed to stay and receive a full-day's pay.

Subsequent meetings have been put on hold as management have agreed to mediation through ACAS.

Pay campaign in the House

Our Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons continues to go from stength to strength - with 24 MPs now signed up. The latest members to have signed EDM 1639 are Labour MPs: Tony Lloyd, David Anderson, Colin Burgon, Alan Simpson, David Hamilton, and Rudi Vis, plus Liberal Democrat Bob Russell.

To view the full text of the EDM 1639, click
here. If your MP isn't listed, please urge them to sign the EDM by contacting them through www.writetothem.com

We have also been boosted this week by a £200 donation from South Yorkshire NUJ Branch towards our strike fund - a magnificent sum, so thanks go to our colleagues there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Meeting management's challenge

Journalists at Newsquest York prepare to return from their seven-and-a-half hour mandatory chapel meeting

Today witnessed more brave and determined action from journalists in York, as their campaign for decent pay continued. More than two weeks on since our five-day strike, members were together again in the first of eight scheduled mandatory meetings.

The chapel's business started early - at 8am at York's Caffé Nero. But about 25 chapel members and our NUJ assistant regional organiser were soon in the thick of debate over the dispute and an renewed offer from management to go to independent body ACAS for mediation.

After lunch we reconvened at the Seahorse Hotel to talk through other plans for action and links with other trade unions. And, after a few hours of fruitful discussion, we made the decision to return to work.

We entered Newsquest York's office, in Walmgate, at 3.30pm en masse and, once again, in the rudest of health. Management seemed surprised to see members taking their places to get on with the day's work - especially as most journalists only had two hours left in their working day.

Unfortunately all staff - apart from three late shift workers - were told their services would not be required and were sent home. Management had brought in journalists from elsewhere to cover for their absence, including Brian Nuttney, deputy editor of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus (also a Newsquest paper).

However, positive discussions between the NUJ and managing director Steve Hughes led to an agreement that will see the chapel voluntarily suspending its planned industrial action until a mediation session with ACAS is convened early next week.

This is exactly the result the chapel wanted. We now hope management prove they are serious about resolving this dispute and will improve their derisory pay offer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pay for the day

The latest story about our dispute by Press Gazette, the journalism trade weekly, is on the threat by management to dock a full day's pay if any member misses part of the day due to the mandatory meetings. As the meetings last as long as is needed to complete the chapel's business, this is clearly about reducing the effectiveness of the action and saying: come in on time or not at all. The chapel will decide how to respond to this tomorrow, at the first of eight planned mandatory meetings at 8am.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Parliamentary support still growing

Support for our Early Day Motion (EDM) within Parliament is increasing. We now have 17 MPs signed up to the statement in support of the strike. The latest additions are Labour MPs Martin Caton, Jeremy Corbyn, Robert N Wareing, Ronnie Campbell, Harry Cohen, Ann Cryer, Andrew Dismore, David Drew, Neil Gerrard, Katy Clark. Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd has also signed up.

The text of the EDM 1639. If your MP isn't listed, please urge them to sign the EDM by contacting them through www.writetothem.com
That this House notes with disappointment the below-inflation pay rise offered to journalists at Newsquest York; further notes that Gannett, Newsquest's US parent company, made a profit last year of over $1 billion; is concerned that the journalists at Newsquest York work hard to deliver good quality local news to the community in difficult circumstances of increasing workloads and understaffing; believes that high quality journalism is essential to any democratic society and recognises that poor conditions and inadequate pay threaten this provision; supports the strike action taken by National Union of Journalists members at Newsquest York; and urges the management to enter into meaningful dialogue with staff over pay and conditions.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Topping up the strike fund

During our five-day strike nearly all members lost out on pay, so our strike fund has compensated members to make sure they suffer no hardship as a result. This has reduced our strike fund. Fortunately, we have received considerable donations over the last few days to make up for some of the shortfall.

The NUJ Chapel at Newsquest Glasgow, who are struggling against the company's cuts and drive for profit at the cost of quality, sent a donation of £200 to our strike fund. A collection at the Northern Echo in Darlington, also a Newsquest title, brought in £131 for the fund. The Birmingham and Coventry NUJ Branch sent us £300, following an earlier donation of £350. Fellow Newsquest colleagues at the Oxford Mail sent us £50, as did friends at the Darlington NUJ Chapel. We also received individual donations totalling £50.

The chapel offers its wholehearted thanks to all these supporters.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mandatory meetings make the news

News of our continuing battle for fair pay has already hit the trade press. We are featured in an article on the Press Gazette website, and also on Hold The Front Page. This was the press release issued by the NUJ and on its website:
Journalists in York are continuing their battle for fair pay by holding a series of mandatory chapel meetings each morning starting Thursday, June 12.

The 34 NUJ members will be holding meetings at 8am each morning up to and including Thursday, June 19. The meetings are intended to last as long as is needed for business to be completed.

NUJ Assistant Organiser, Jenny Lennox, said: "We are very disappointed that management still refuses to take this matter seriously. Our members feel they have no option but to take further action.

"The union remains committed to finding a resolution to this dispute and has repeatedly stated that we would be happy to meet with management but they continue to ignore us."

The action will affect The Press, the company’s main paper in the city, as well as other Newsquest titles including the Gazette & Herald. Members from these titles went on a five-day strike last month against a below inflation pay rise demanding a pay deal which matches local salaries and is in-line with pay at other Newsquest newspapers.

New action, new theme

After the success of our strike song Things I Learnt This Year, NUJ member and folk troubadour Richard Foster has repeated his success by penning another sure-fire hit. The tune is called Gannett, Mean And Petty and is based on Sally Free And Easy by Cyril Tawney. Richard gave the debut performance at the NUJ York Branch Social event last night, at the Golden Ball pub, which saw NEC member for newspapers Michelle Stanistreet talk with activists about recruitment and organising.

Richard said he was inspired to write the song afer receiving a letter this week from Newsquest York managing director Steve Hughes detailing how much pay he would be losing through the strike, and also "for the avoidance of doubt" stressing his annual leave and sick days would too be docked.

Richard was recently featured on the website of his church
St Paul's, in Holgate, where he regularly plays guitar, talking about the strike. We hope to have a video of Richard's latest performance online soon. Here are the new lyrics:

Gannett, Mean And Petty

by Richard Foster (based on Sally Free And Easy by Cyril Tawney)

Gannett mean and petty, That should be their name.
Gannett mean and petty, That should be their name.
Took a decent pay claim, for a nursery game.

Send in the strike breakers, pay for their travel to York.
Send in the strike breakers, pay for their travel to York.
Buy them cake from the trolley, and praise them in York Talk.*

Hit your profit targets, that’s what Gannett always say.
Hit your profit targets, that’s what Gannett always say.
Ship out the jobs to India, and sack the ones that stay.

Gannett mean and petty, That should be their name.
Gannett mean and petty, That should be their name.
Counting cash in America, it’s a crying shame.

*NB: York Talk is the company's weekly internal newsletter.

Hitting the road

Given the huge amount of support we've received from fellow trade unionists and NUJ members, we want to make an effort to visit other chapels and branches to speak about our fight and to share any experiences we can.

One of our members travelled to Middlesbrough for the NUJ Teesside Branch meeting yesterday afternoon and told journalists there about our pay fight and why we decided to strike this time after suffering years of below-inflation pay rises. Teesside members generously donated £300 towards the chapel's strike fund.

At the same time, joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate attended a Unison branch meeting at City of York Council's Guildhall. He spoke about the background to the dispute with Newsquest and the current situation. The council employees, who are currently in the middle of national strike ballot over a derisory 2.45% pay offer, expressed their solidarity with NUJ members in York and donated £100 towards our strike fund.

If you would like NUJ members from York to speak at your union branch or chapel meeting, please get in touch by emailing us at
nujyork@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Chapel is fighting on

Today the chapel gave notice to management of our intention to continue the fight for fair pay - by staging more industrial action.

At a lively and well-attended meeting last night, members agreed to stage eight days of discontinous industrial action. We are planning to hold mandatory chapel meetings - of indeterminate length - at 8am every day from Thursday, June 12, to Thursday, June 19, inclusive.

The beauty of chapel meetings is that we can take action for as long or short a length of time as we like. We can simply return to work when we decide the meeting's business is over - effectively allowing us flexibility in whether to strike for five minutes, two hours, or days at a time.

While delivering the notice of our next action, we also reiterated that union officials remain willing to get back around the table should management be willing to reopen serious negotiations.

Of course, while our fight continues we hope the solidarity and messages of support from other trade unionists and journalists will also continue.


Please email messages of support to nujyork@gmail.com, sign our petition online at www.petitiononline.com/nujyork and lobby your MP to sign EDM 1639 by logging on to www.writetothem.com. If you have not already donated to our strike fund, please do so by sending cheques made out to NUJ Newsquest York Chapel to NUJ, 5th Floor, Arthur House, Chorlton Street, Manchester, M1 3FH. Thank you.

EDM signatures increasing

Our Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament is going from strength to strength, with six MPs now having signed up to the motion supporting our strike and urging Newsquest to enter into meaningful negotiations to tackle low pay and poor conditions.

Those to have backed EDM 1639 so far are: Labour MPs John McDonnell, Kelvin Hopkins, Paul Flynn, Lindsay Hoyle, Lynne Jones and Michael Clapham. If your MP is not on this list, please urge them to sign up by logging on to www.writetothem.com

Monday, June 02, 2008

In the news again

Our campaign for fair pay continues to make headlines in the journalism press. This week, the dispute has been covered in a very positive article on the Hold The Front Page website and also in Press Gazette, right, the industry's weekly trade magazine. Both made clear that despite the five-day strike being over, the chapel is very much determined to continue to press its case.


A day at the races


A team of NUJ members visited York Racecourse on The Press Family Raceday to highlight our campaign for fair pay to racegoers. The Press put its name to the day's racing on Friday, May 30, and we thought it only right to provide a news service about the event's sponsors.

Chapel members and supporters handed out leaflets to punters stressing how US-owned Newsquest is gambling with the future of the city's community newspaper, and the Gazette & Herald, which covers Ryedale. They also gathered signatures on our petition, which is still going strong after we handed in 900 names to managing director Steve Hughes last week.

Celebrities including Nikki Sanderson, pictured right, who played Candice in Coronation Street, took leaflets and spoke to members about our dispute.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Taking a lead in pressuring Newsquest

We reported earlier how former Seahorses singer-songwriter Chris Helme, now lead guitarist of The Yards, signed our petition backing the NUJ campaign for a decent pay rise. We now have a copy of a letter to the managing director Steve Hughes from his bandmate guitarist Chris Farrell, reproduced below. We are urging all our supporters to email Steve at steve.hughes@ycp.co.uk and his boss regional managing director David Coates at david.coates@nne.co.uk to suggest they start paying their journalsts fairly. Here's Chris's eloquent letter:

Dear Steve,

I'm emailing you to express my support for the journalists currently on strike at the Press and concern that a once much valued local paper has been reduced to treating its staff so badly.

As a York resident for over 14 years I have always relied on the journalists working for the Press to keep me informed about what is happening in my community in an informative and relevant way.

As a charity fundraiser and musician I am only too aware that without coverage in the Press the cultural and social life of York would be greatly impoverished. Without sufficient properly paid and committed journalists covering local issues and events you simply cannot produce a paper that should properly be seen as a keystone of our city and as such the relevance (and readership) of the Press will disappear.

As an employer I feel it is demeaning to your staff to offer a 3% pay rise when real inflation is over 4% and food inflation is over 10%. We in the charity sector have recognised that you really do get what you pay for in the end and it is both exploitative and self defeating to expect staff to work in these conditions. As a company that makes a considerable profit off the hard work of your employees I can see no reason why you feel the need to adopt your current position other than sheer greed.

I therefore very much hope you will recognise the legitimacy of your employees position and revise your pay offer, allowing the journalists of the Press to return to what they does best, providing relevant local coverage and comment on all aspects of York life.

Yours sincerely

Chris Farrell

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When the strikers went marching in...

We returned to work today with our heads held very high indeed. About 20 strikers gathered in a car park close to Newsquest York's offices just before 9am and marched in to the offices en masse - still united, still strong and still fighting.

Joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Sam Southgate immediately presented managing director Steve Hughes with a petition signed by 900 readers and residents demanding fair pay for journalists at The Press and the Gazette & Herald.

This was the inspiring message to members from Tony

We returned to work today not in doom nor gloom, but in a positive, vibrant mood. We have not won our battle yet - it may well take quite a while - but we are already winners because we have shown such a unity of spirit, defiance, commitment and togetherness.

Can any of us have been prouder to be members of the National Union of Journalists than during our brave and concerted action throughout the York chapel’s five-day strike? No.

We might take some knocks in the next few days or weeks, but we have to remember the five days between May 22 and 26 when, as one, we supported each other, worked for each other, looked out for each other and revelled in each other’s determination not to be brow-beaten or bullied or battered

We now have a chapel of strength. We now have a chapel of character. We now have a chapel of purpose.

Those five days have given us that. They have earned respect across the city of York, across the union nationally, across the industry country-wide.

The taboo of taking industrial action has been shattered. There is no need to fear it. Provided we stick together we can embrace the notion of fighting legitimately for our rights and steadfastly pressing our claims for fair pay and better working conditions.

As said before, our stoppage reinforced our status as winners. Now let’s go on to even more memorable
victories.

Making news in cyberspace

Our campaign continues to attract attention and support.

We reported how NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear visited the picket line on Saturday morning. He has written about his experience on his blog He says:

"There's a fantastic spirit about the strike and a determination to win a fair pay deal. I was happy to be able to deliver a show of support for the strikers and importantly pledge cash to them from the union's fighting fund."
Michelle Stanistreet, the NEC member for newspapers and agencies, who visited the picket line on Monday, has also paid testament to the spirit among the strikers on her blog She says:

"We need to keep up the fight for decent pay for journalists on highly profitable local papers. The York chapel is showing us the way. I can empathise with the people I spoke to today who are struggling to pay off student loans and find accommodation in an expensive area. The spirit of determination, unity and fun on the picket line was a lesson for the union as a whole. I was delighted to see the Stand Up For Journalism banner on display – as well resourced, motivated journalists are vital for a community like York. It was great to see that the chapel has the support of many local people – including the councillors and MP John Grogan who turned up on a bank holiday to show their support."
There's also a new article in the newspaper Socialist Worker by Frank Ormston, a local TSSA union rep who visited the picket line a number of times.

And we've had the following messages of support, one from our Business Editor who was sunning himself in warmer climes during the strike:

Feeling part of it
Well done all. The blog is fantastic. I really felt part of it from all this distance away. I know it's hard to believe, but I wished I was there. This is just the start of the battle. Fraternal greetings from paradise.
Ron Godfrey

Support for justice quest
Dear comrades, On behalf of all the 22,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union employed in the South West of England may I extend to you and all your fellow strikers our total support in your dispute to obtain justice for your members. If there is any practical help or support we can provide, please do not hesitate to get in touch, Yours fraternally
David A Millar
South West Regional Secretary, PCS

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chapel's message: this ain't over

A lively chapel meeting at the end of our five-day strike had one message for Newsquest management: this dispute is not over. After taking such a brave and principled stand, we are determined not to let our hard work be for nought. A full chapel meeting next week will discuss how to step up our campaign, and we already have plenty of ideas. But one thing's for sure: with a huge strike fund behind us and the taboo of industrial action utterly shattered, all options are now open.

Marching on the Minster


On the march in York's Parliament Street


Actors, MPs, councillors, lecturers and shoppers got behind our strike on its final day. More than 20 picketers marched on the city's Minster on another glorious day of sunshine in York to round off the first wave of our action for fair pay.

We were buoyed early on by a visit from Selby MP John Grogan, whose constituency includes part of York and is covered by The Press. He had earlier sent us a message of support but today he spoke to strikers and gave us his backing in person.

Then City of York councillor Dave Taylor dropped by to give us his backing. We had earlier visited by his Green Party colleague
Andy D'Agorne so we now have 100 per cent of the council's Green group on board.

Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for York Central, Susan Wade Weeks paid another visit to the picket line. She said her daughter, the actress Honeysuckle Weeks, from the TV show Foyle's War, would also be rooting for us.

More celebrety backing came in the shape of Robinson Crusoe. The lead in an upcoming series by American TV company NBC, Philip Winchester, signed our petition and gave us his support. Along with stars such as Sean Bean and Sam Neil, he has been in the city for filming over the last week.

Three NUJ national executive members turned out today - Michelle Stanistreet, Tom Davies and Adam Christie - along with Miles Barter from the Manchester NUJ Branch and our regional organiser Jenny Lennox. They brought with them the branch's banner which we hoisted in front of the building.

The University of York's UCU secretary James Cussens paid us a visit and wished us fraternal greetings, as did a Japanese lecturer in labour relations at York St John University and a trade unionist in his home country.

By noon, we were ready to move off on our march into the city centre. Our demonstration was lively, fun and loud - it surely made an impression on the Bank Holiday shoppers. From Newsquest York's offices in Walmgate, we marched to the Minster and then to Parliament Street.

There we staged an impromptu singalong of our strike song, which saw dozens of members of the public throw money into our bucket. Union members handed out copies of our strike paper The Stress, collected signatures on our petition, and shouted slogans on the megaphone.

From there, we went back to Newsquest York's offices and stood outside chanting our slogan: "What do we want? Fair Pay! When do we want it? Now!" We were certainly loud enough to make our point to the management inside. We rounded off our five-day strike with a chapel meeting and devoured a lunch laid on at a local pub.

Selby MP John Grogan on the picket line

Richard Foster sings his heart out in the city centre

A video of our end-of-strike march and rally

Thanks for 'phenomenal' support

Striking journalists in York wish to thank the thousands of people who have backed them during their five-day walkout.

The NUJ chapel at The Press and Gazette and Herald are striking over a derisory pay-increase offer of 3% - well below inflation, and less than several other papers in Newsquest, the papers' owners.

The journalists have been backed by local politicians of all parties, as well as thousands of local residents and readers of the papers.

Former Press editor Dave Nicholson also backed the strikers, as have many other workers around the city.

Joint Father of Chapel Sam Southgate said: "The support has been phenomenal. Many people have been amazed to learn how poor local journalists are paid, and were shocked to hear that millions of pounds made in York were being sucked out of the local economy by Newsquest and their American owners.

"Donations and messages of goodwill have been flooding in from all over the country, and even as far afield as New York. The support from other employees at The Press, such as advertising staff, and delivery drivers, has also been fantastic.

"The ball is now in Steve Hughes' court - he must decide whether to listen to the people of York and pay their journalists a fair wage, or to continue pandering to the excessive demands of American shareholders."

This is the first strike by journalists at The Press since 1978.

Support for campaign runs deep

Our strike fund is edging steadily towards the £10,000 mark after two significant donations today. We received £100 from Newcastle Branch as well as a £40 donation from a supporter in Tyneside.

Meanwhile, we are on the cusp of smashing through the 1,000-signature barrier with our petition for fair pay. We now have an online version of the petition, so please log on and add your name.

Below are two further messages of support that arrived today:


Lively, imaginative action
To all members on strike at the Press. It was great to meet some of you down on the picket line today. I've been really impressed by the lively and imaginative nature of your strike. This note is just to convey a message of support to you from University of York. Let's hope come round to giving you the pay you deserve! In solidarity,
James Cussens, University of York UCU secretary


Trail-blazing strike
Add our support for your courageous and trail-blazing action.
Gloria McShane, chair, Teesside branch

Robinson Crusoe backs strike

The star of the new Robinson Crusoe TV series has joined our stance for fair pay. American actor Philip Winchester, pictured, who played Scott Tracy in the recent remake of Thunderbirds, took a copy of our strike paper, The Stress, and signed our petition while filming in York today.
Philip, Sean Bean, Sam Neil and other cast members have been filming the 13-part drama for US production company NBC in the city for the last two weeks. Philip took time out to ask questions about our strike, read The Stress and wish us good luck. Extras and crew members have also supported our cause throughout the last five days.

Cost of living is rising

We began our campaign for fair pay with a five-day strike because chapel members feel fed up with below-inflation pay rises eroding our standard of living while our employer - Newsquest - continues to make massive profits.

Living is costly

While the standard measure of inflation (RPI) currently stands at four per cent year-on-year, house prices have gone up by 6.6 per cent, food by 7.2 per cent and energy costs by 15 per cent, not to mention the spiralling cost of fuel. These increases, coupled with below-inflation pay deals year after year, are making life costlier than ever.

In our last round of pay negotiations more than two years ago, we agreed a deal based on RPIX (a rate of inflation that doesn't include mortgages) plus 0.25 per cent. Using the same calculation for this year - just to stand still on our deal last time around - would currently work out at a 4.25 per cent rise.


Yet we have been offered just a three per cent pay rise - in real terms a 1.2 per cent pay cut.

Four other Newsquest centres have been offered a 3.5 per cent deal - Glasgow, North Essex, South Essex and South London. Our management has said an extra 0.5 per cent would be available as "merit money" for the editor to shower on whoever he pleases. But it has become clear both here and from colleagues in Bradford that Newsquest bosses are not in any way committed to spending this cash.

Billion dollar racket

Newsquest's management is pleading poverty but its profits in York alone were £4.3 million last year. Gannett, the American parent company that owns Newsquest - including The Press and the Gazette & Herald - made
$1 billion in 2007.

Newsquest's national chief executive and chairman Paul Davidson received more than
£1.1 million in salaries, bonuses and benefits last year and lives in the exclusive Virginia Water estate in Surrey - the wealthiest village in England.

Yet trainee reporters on The Press - graduates often with a mountain of debt - are forced to struggle by on only £13,500. The most any non-management journalist at The Press or the Gazette & Herald could ever hope to earn is £22,500 - even if they work for the company for decades they will never break through this glass ceiling.

And unless we put a stop to below-inflation pay deals year after year, journalists' standard of living will continue to worsen.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

We're all fine - on the picket line

It was another cracking day on the picket line for the York strikers. Due to the work patterns on Sunday we started at 3.30pm, but the line was soon dancing a jig as Fozzy and the Fozzettes were once again on song.

NUJ regional organiser Chris Morley joined us and brought along the Birmingham NUJ Branch banner. About 15 strikers turned out and enjoyed more glorious sunshine while handing out leaflets and getting members of the public to sign our petition for fair pay.


Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for York Central Susan Wade Weeks also visited the picket line, following up on her message of support. Susan, who lives locally, said she was pleased to give us her full backing. She has spoken to Newsquest York's managing director Steve Hughes on our behalf to press him to give us a fair pay rise. We are very grateful for her continued support.

Union member Richard Foster, accompanied by his son Daniel, performed the NUJ York strike song Things I Learnt This Year and other numbers including Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life and Part Of The Union, by The Strawbs.

Passing motorists - epsecially bus drivers from First York - were again offering ster
ling support by honking for fair pay. On a similar theme, The Press's former pocket cartoonist, known as Wolf, whose slot was axed when the paper was redesigned last month, sent us a cartoon about our strike, pictured right.

The Press's editor Kevin Booth was back from holiday today - he has missed out on the strike so far - and we were there to greet him as he entered the office.

Tomorrow is the final day of this strike and we'll be out in force. We're planning a march around the city centre followed by a rally at the Minster and a celebratory lunch to mark the end of this action and to plan what comes next.


We're determined to continue our fight for decent pay; this is just the beginning.

Face to face with supporters

Membership of our Facebook group is growing at a rate of knots. We now have more than 220 online supporters. Stay in touch with the latest news, discuss the strike, watch videos and view our picture gallery by joining the group. Just click here.

Chapel fighting fund nears £10k

Countless donations towards our strike fund have been thrown into our bucket by members of the public over the weekend. We now have some £300 pounds in there, which together with a £25 donation from an NUJ member in the US, pushes us close to the £3,750 mark.

However the big news today is that the NUJ's national executive committee (NEC) has agreed to send us £6,000 towards the strike as a down payment for our dispute. This is a simply incredible sum and reaffirms Jeremy Dear's message yesterday that the union nationally is behind us all the way. Officials have stressed that more financial support will be coming our way from the NEC should we need it.

We now have a fighting fund of close to £10,000, giving members the confidence to plan where we go next in battling for fair pay. There's a feeling that union members at (especially Newsquest) papers across the country are willing us on and, given the help we've had, we feel we owe it to them to continue our struggle.

Rock royalty backs strikers

York's rock band royalty are in harmony with our strike. As we approach the final day of our five-day stoppage, our walkout has been backed by former Seahorses singer-songwriter Chris Helme, whose new band The Yards will be performing a charity gig at the Minster on Thursday night.

Helme signed our petition, which is closing in on more than 1,000 signatures, declaring that journalists at The Press and its weekly newspaper, the Gazette & Herald, should be given a fair pay deal.

And in a further boost, Chris Farrell , the lead guitarist with The Yards, has written an eloquent letter to Newsquest York's managing director Steve Hughes backing the NUJ campaign for a decent pay rise. Helme and Farrell said they both "totally supported" the journalists’ fight for a fair pay offer.


The three per cent deal proposed by management has been overwhelmingly rejected by the NUJ chapel prompting the five-day stoppage. No fewer than four other companies in the Newsquest empire have been given 3.5 per cent pay deals.

Tickets for The Yards charity gig on Thursday at the Minster - ironically in aid of The Press’s Guardian Angels charity appeal and also the Minster Restoration Fund - are available from Fibbers nightclub and the Church House reception, in Ogleforth.

Backing us to the hilt

Cause is just
Dear Colleagues, I am unable to visit your picketline as I am recovering from an operation. But as a former NUJ Northern Organiser I know how difficult it must be to live in York on what Newsquest pays you. Your cause is just: your action is sound: your aims are entirely fair. Willing you to success.
John Toner NUJ, Freelance Organiser

Inspiration to all activists
To all the members of the York Press NUJ chapel, I just wanted to email to say what a wonderful job you are all doing and to keep up the good work. I've been keeping in touch with your efforts online and it is great to see everyone coming together to support what you believe in. The treatment of staff by Newsquest York is ridiculous in this day and age, and sadly not an isolated case. Your strike will be an inspiration for activists across the UK as it has been to me. Since I moved to New York six months ago, I have been intending to get an NUJ network up and running in the city. I kept saying I was too busy but now I realise you can always find the time. After all, united we're stronger. I hope your final day is a success and that you will get the results you truly deserve. If nothing else, you will have scored a strong moral victory and given the people of York food for thought. The bosses at The Press love to stress what a campaigning local paper it is - how can they expect journalist to expose the wrongdoings of other companies if it can't look after its own?! All the best guys!
Alex Lloyd

Recalling past pickets
Dear Fozzy and the Fozettes and all, I was pleased this morning to be able to share your picket line, albeit for only ten minutes, as my wife and I arrived on a visit to York. It took me back to picket lines on several occasions in Sheffield where I worked on the old Sheffield Telegraph and later The Star for 45 years. It makes me sad that journalists are still being forced by intransigent and short-sighted managements to strike to achieve fair rewards. I wish you success and hope the Fozettes will soon be playing a celebratory tune.
Stuart Machin, NUJ life member, now retired.

Student journalist's support
Hello all, This is a message of support from a Nouse student journalist. Good luck with your protest, I blogged about you on my Tumblr. Good news on the Minster scoop and don't let them grind you down! Best,
Jennifer O'Mahony

Fighting for quality journalism
It is heartening to hear that you are taking action in defence of the a standard of journalism which is becoming a truly "endangered species" in the face of the kind of dumbed down rubbish which fills the newsstands. All power to you and it is my dear wish that you succeed.
Daniel Russell

Friends in Scotland
Solidarity from Scotland.
From the Campsie branch Scottish Socialist Party

Willing you to win
Great to hear you had a good first day. You obviously know by now that you have our unflinching support and solidarity. It's an absolute scandal that companies like Newsquest talk about local bargaining, while implementing national policies to cut back on resources, pay, and workers' terms and conditions. Keep up the fight. The whole union is behind you.
Richard Simcox NUJ London Press & PR Branch
Magazines chapel greetings
Good for you! All the best
Charlotte, Emap Public Sector Deputy MoC

London lecturers offer backing
The branch sec of UCL UCU joins me in expressing solidarity with your strike.
Maggie Gray, post-graduate assistant UCL History of Art Department, UCLU Postgraduate faculty rep for Social & Historical Sciences

Fraternal greetings
Fraternal greetings etc. from London - best of luck with the pay claim.
Gary Dunion, Chief Press Officer, Green Party, and Asst Branch Sec, Press & PR Branch, NUJ

University union's best wishes
Good luck with the strike.
Andrew Collingwood, York University UCU Executive Member

Dark days before recognition
Good luck with the strike guys - I hope they sit up and take notice. As a former Press worker in the dark pre-union recognition days, I will be thinking of you all. Keep fighting.
Catherine Bruce

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Canada high

Support for our strike has attracted global support. Messages backing our stance have ranged from as far afield as the United States of America, Singapore and Romania.

But one of the most endearing was from a care worker in Canada who was holidaying in York. He asked was there any way of contributing to the strike fund and when being told there was a collection bucket, he proceeded to put in a sizeable amount of cash.

Pressed as to why he should be so generous, he recalled how he and his co-workers had undertaken their first strike for three decades in his native Canada.

He said: "The local newspaper there was extremely supportive to our campaign for fair pay and through their assistance we were able to win a 25 per cent pay deal. I hope yourselves at York achieve your demand for fair pay. It is vital that unions stick together and fight for what they believe to be right."

Watching Gannett, watching us

News of our strike has now gone transatlantic after the story was picked up by Gannett Watch, a US-based blog that keeps an eagle-eye trained on the doings of the American conglomerate that owns Newsquest and indeed The Press and the Gazette & Herald. Click here to see the post.

Call for petition signatures

Since launching our petition on Friday, we have collected hundreds of signatures from people who agree journalists at The Press and the Gazette & Herald should be paid a fair wage. We now have an e-petition to accompany it and to allow supporters elsewhere to register their backing. Click here to add your signature.

Video documents strike day

We now have a short video explaining why we are striking alongside footage of the first day on the picket line:

Time to press our MPs

A parliamentary motion has been lodged calling on Newsquest to give its York journalists a decent pay rise. Early Day Motion 1639 has been sponsored by Labour MP John McDonnell, secretary of the NUJ's parliamentary group. To contact your MP, log on to www.writetothem.com The motion reads as follows:

That this House notes with disappointment the below-inflation pay rise offered to journalists at Newsquest York; further notes that Gannett, Newsquest's US parent company, made a profit last year of over $1 billion; is concerned that the journalists at Newsquest York work hard to deliver good quality local news to the community in difficult circumstances of increasing workloads and understaffing; believes that high quality journalism is essential to any democratic society and recognises that poor conditions and inadequate pay threaten this provision; supports the strike action taken by National Union of Journalists members at Newsquest York; and urges the management to enter into meaningful dialogue with staff over pay and conditions.

Donations still pouring in

The strike fund is still going strong. Today we had £180 donated by one good friend of the union and about £50 from members of the public, no doubt helped by Daniel's fine fiddling.

Yesterday afternoon, Richard Edwards of the Leeds NUJ Branch paid a visit to our picket line. He had whip-round among his workmates at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post which raised an extra £138 for our strike fund. This was incredible given that the chapel and branch had together already donated £750. So we owe a big thank you to Leeds members.

This all takes our total of received and pledged donations to somewhere near £3,600 - a simply incredible figure. We never expected to received such wonderful solidarity, so thank you all.

Minster fire alert scoop for NUJ journalists

Another exclusive for strike paper The Stress's reporters...

HUNDREDS of York residents and tourists looked on as emergency services swooped on the city's Minster this afternoon. Four fire engines and police rushed to the historic church shortly before 5pm after the fire alam sounded. After an anxious examination of the building it was found to have been a false alarm. It was believed to have been sparked by either bellringers or workmen disturbing dust in the bell tower. NUJ journalists were on the scene and pictures will follow soon. Where were The Press? Remember, you read it here first.


Picture copyright NUJ Newsquest York Chapel. All rights reserved.

General Secretary joins picket line

On the third day of our strike, picketers were in bouyant mood as we were accompanied by violin and guitar outside Newsquest York's offices.

We started at 8.30am and were joined by the NUJ's General Secretary Jeremy Dear, pictured, who emphasised we had the full support of the union behind us.

Richard Foster, a subeditor at The Press and composer of our strike ballad, was joined by his son and fiddler Daniel to keep our spirits high at the mid-point of our five-day action. He played a range of Scottish, Irish and even Norwegian fiddle tunes to keep the line's feet tapping. Then we had a number of rousing renditions of our strike song Things I Learnt This Year.

Members of the NUT and Unison joined us to help hand our fliers and press our case. At noon the group of about 15 union members headed into the city centre and set up our stall on Parliament Street. We handed out copies of our strike newspaper The Stress - today with an exclusive York Knights rugby league story - and encouraged shoppers to sign our petition demanding Newsquest give us a fair pay rise.


We will be back again tomorrow to show there will be no let up in our demand for fair pay . To see highlights from today, watch this video:

Friday, May 23, 2008

TV coverage spreads our message

More good news on the media front. Aside from longer slots with interviews shown on Calendar and Look North last night, we also featured on ITV Tyne Tees news. Management have refused to give any comments to radio and TV, leaving us with a free run at it.

We also featured on the Hold The Front Page website today and at Journalism.co.uk, although the latter article looks at the video journalism angle. In a nutshell, we balloted for industrial action over this issue in December because of a lack of training, a shortage of reporters and there being no extra pay for the new skills. We called off the action after Steve Hughes promised 0.5% of budget towards payments for this. However, in the ongoing pay talks, this changed to become simply "merit money" for the editor to reward who he likes. It seems management are not even intending to spend this money.

Fundamentally, though, this strike is down to low pay and a below-inflation pay offer that we cannot accept.

Strke fund is still on the up

Our strike fund smashed through the £3k barrier today thanks to a £300 donation from the NUJ Newsquest Bradford Chapel and about £50 donated by members of the public.

In his letter to the York strikers, Bradford Father of Chapel, Bob Smith, said:
On behalf of members of the Newsquest Bradford Chapel, I'd like to wish you success with your action in support of better pay and conditions.

Newsquest makes vast profits on the backs of its workers and ships most of it back to its US shareholders. Investment in its companies is minimal and its long-term strategy non-existent. NUJ members' standards of living fall further with every below-inflation wage settlement the company offers. How your managing director Steve Hughes can call a three per cent offer "increasingly attractive" when inflation is soaring above four per cent and food prices are up by more than seven per cent is mindboggling and shows how out of touch our managers are.

Hughes's take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum with the company's offer indicates a Victorian vindictiveness which is completely out of place in the 21st century.

All of which is why we applaud your decision to take strike action, and why I and my chapel members are right behind you. Your fight is for every journalist in Newsquest and is vital at a time when management are set to hack even more resources from a company which has already been pared to the bone.
Thanks very much to Bob and all those at Bradford for showing such wonderful solidarity. Please everyone, keep the donations coming.

Strike paper scores scoop


Our strike paper, The Stress, today scored a scoop on the management cobbling together The Press with an exclusive story about the city's football team.

The story concerning former York City captain Manny Panther's prospective move to Exeter City was entirely missed by The Press. But fans could still find out the news thanks to the strike paper, 1,250 of which were handed out yesterday. The Stress is carrying a mixture of news about the strike and exclusive stories readers only available to the dedicated journalists on the picket line. We are set for another three exclusive stories in Saturday's edition.

Joint Father of Chapel, Tony Kelly, said the support for the strike has been brilliant. He said: "We are overwhelmed by the support we have received from the public, councillors and our colleague inside the building. Countless numbers of drivers are responding to our 'Honk for fair pay' placards.

"There was much interest in our stall - more than 1,000 people took leaflets before lunchtime - and our strike paper The Stress, which covers the dispute in depth, was also popular on the picket line. We even managed to secure an exclusive story in the sports pages which The Press had not heard about.

"The weather has been perfect with glorious sunshine. The managing director came out yesterday and tried to dampen our spirits by telling us it would rain but he was wrong.

Conservative candidate backs strike

Another political big-hitter pledged her support to our campaign today. Susan Wade Weeks, the Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for York Central, has given us her full backing. She promised to phone Newsquest York managing director Steve Hughes and ask him how it is fair that journalists at The Press and the Gazette & Herald can be handed below-inflation pay rises that are worse than those elsewhere in the company. She gave us this message:
"I give you my wholehearted support in this strike action. The issue of fair pay goes to the heart of any decent society. Life in this country is becoming impossibly expensive. A difference of £1,700 a year in two journalists pay packets amounts to a whole year's council tax . It is simply and obviously unfair that even within the region rates of pay vary dramatically, when the cost of living doesn't. You have my support."
The chapel would like to extend its thanks to Susan for her efforts.