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.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Add our support for your courageous and trail-blazing action.
Gloria McShane, chair, Teesside branch
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.
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
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 sterling 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.
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.
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.
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.
Richard Simcox NUJ London Press & PR Branch
Saturday, May 24, 2008
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.Thanks very much to Bob and all those at Bradford for showing such wonderful solidarity. Please everyone, keep the donations coming.
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.
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.
"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.
Early on Tracey Simpson-Laing, a Labour member of City of York Council, dropped by on her bicycle to give us some chocolate muffins. Shortly after, her colleague and leader of the Labour group, David Scott, visited the picket again to pass on his best wishes.
In mid-morning Alan Hughes, Newsquest York's official chaplain, and vicar at St Deny's Church, a few hundred metres from the offices in Walmgate, wished us well. Although he is unable to take an official line on the dispute, he said he believed the church should take an interest and said he had told management he would not cross the picket line.
Fellow York trade unionists were also out in force today. We were visited by Linda Cartwright, the York PCS Branch secretary; Andy Stainforth, the T&GWU rep for First York buses; and Frank Ormston, a TSSA rep at Network Rail. We also received a call from Paul Clays, the CWU at the city's Royal Mail sorting office. They all said their members and branches are giving us their full support.
Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ National Executive Committee member for newspapers and also Mother of Chapel at Express newspapers, in London, phoned to send solidarity greetings and to see how we were getting on. Hopefully Michelle will be visiting the picket line on Monday. We were happy to see two members of the Yorkshire Post/Yorkshire Evening Post Joint NUJ Chapel - Mike Cowling and Richard Edwards - on the line. Leeds NUJ members have contributed £750 to our strike fund and we are hugely grateful for their solidarity.
Support from motorists, bus drivers and council workers was again high - with almost constant honking of horns on the street. Friends inside the building have told us all the noise can clearly be heard inside the editorial floor, which one staff member described as "a cross between a cemetery and Sainsbury's at midnight". We're determined to keep on making our point to the bosses inside the building.
During the day we received a chocolate egg from York City Football Club's mascot, Yorkie the Lion, and text messages of support from the following:
- Tim Lezard, Gloucestershire NUJ Branch and South West TUC
- Richard Simcox, NUJ London Press & PR Branch
- Tom Davies, NUJ NEC member and London Freelance Branch
- Richard Edwards, Leeds NUJ Branch
- and NUJ members and supporters in West Yorkshire, York and Leicestershire
Another great day on the picket line. Everyone had fun, and enjoyed the sun and solidarity. We'll be back again on Saturday, bright and early to continue our campaign for fair pay.
Outside the Walmgate offices of The Press and the Gazette & Herald, strikers and members of the public were of one voice thrilled by an al fresco concert by The Press subeditor and NUJ member Richard Foster.
He opened his pavement gig with the self-penned Things I Learnt This Year, written as part of the five-day campaign against a derisory three per cent pay offer from Newsquest (York). Click on the video panel below to see some footage of the performance (apologies for the quality).
As strikers joined in, Fozzy, backed by the Fozettes, had Walmgate jumping, pictured. The concert continued with equal gusto and a flurry of favourite tunes including Redemption Song, Quinn The Eskimo, Snoopy And The Red Baron, Joe Hill and Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, before launching into an even more rousing reprise of his heartfelt strike ballad.
His song was first aired in public at a special folk concert given by star American folk singer Dana Robinson. During the gig at the Black Swan Folk Club, Robinson dedicated a protest song in tribute to the striking journalists and photographers whose newspapers belong to the Newsquest empire, owned by American parent company Gannett, which made $1 billion profit last year. To hear the song in full, log on to our YouTube site here.
York Respect/Left List fully supports your strike. It's a scandal that employers are pleading poverty and offering "rises" that amount to pay cuts at a time when prices of life's necessities are rising much faster than the official inflation rate. The looming recession was not created by workers, and we should not be made to pay for it through pay cuts, job cuts, or attacks on our public services as companies try to boost their profits at our expense, and government slashes social spending to subsidise its wars. The fantastic support for your strike from all over the country gives the lie to the idea that recent elections demonstrate a mass shift to the right. In fact, strikes are becoming more popular as ordinary people look for ways to resist the impact of attacks from bosses and government.
York Respect/Left List
Bookshop behind us
Good luck with your fight for a living wage. The fact that you have taken a stand should inspire other journalists and private sector workers to take on the corporations and stand up for fairness and respect at work. Unity is strength!
Jonathan Maunder on behalf of Bookmarks - the UK's biggest socialist bookshop and appointed bookseller to the TUC.
Cutting to the bone
Good luck with the strike. It is sad that journalists have to take this kind of action to secure a wage that doesn't even keep up with inflation and still remains appallingly low by anyone's standards, especially for what, people forget, is a professional job. I congratulate you for standing up to the bosses, who, like ours - Trinity Mirror - are using the downturn in the economy as an excuse for more pitifully poor pay offers and cannot even ensure parity between employees on different titles. It's shameful that management plead poverty yet splurge millions on director's salaries, and that they only try to compound what advertising income they have retained rather than investing to increase it, like good businesspeople would. Journalism will continue to suffer if ruthless companies like Newsquest wear away at the integrity of its editorial staff and its titles by trying to batter and exhaust its employees into submission with low pay, increasing workloads and a deplorable and embarassing lack of investment.
Ian Proctor - FoC West London and Bucks NUJ Chapel
Admire chapel's courage
Just wanted to say that I wholly support your action and admire your courage for taking it. You are sending a very powerful message to Newsquest and your example will give confidence and hope to other journalists in a similar position. I will join you on the picket line over the weekend!
Sandra Geere, York NUJ Branch member
No overtime paid
As a fellow Newsquest journalist, I wish you all the best in your dispute. It's not as though we are well paid. A rookie police constable earns more than many highly experienced journalists with years of service. Unlike the police, we do not get overtime.
Trade union tradition
For the first time in twenty years teachers took national strike action three weeks ago. Your stand in favour of true journalism as opposed to profiteering garbage is in the best traditions of trade unionism. Solidarity greetings from Leicester NUT.
Peter Flack, assistant secretary
We'll move mountains
Wishing all success to the chapel their strength is our strength; with it we can move mountains and will.
John Fray, retiring NUJ deputy general secretary
Teachers support strike
Best wishes to you all in your struggle.
Howard Stevenson (UCU & NUT)
Greetings from Manchester
Greetings from the NUJ chapel at the Manchester Evening News - don't let them grind you down, you have a valid case and deserve better. Best of luck.
Judy Gordon, MoC
During their gig at the Black Swan Folk Club on Thursday night, Dana said: “The journalists in York are very brave to go out on strike. It really does seem to be the right thing to do. Inflation keeps going up and when people don’t get paid more, they get restless.”
As a tribute to the strikers, he played a song he composed about the great American folk singer Woody Guthrie entitled What Would Woody Do? The final verse starts: “He’d say when you find a thing that’s wrong, put your finger on it. ‘Cause you don’t have to be a poet to write a song about it. You’re gonna get your point across if it’s anywhere near true. What would Woody do?”
Before the duo sang their tribute to the strikers, one of them, Richard Foster, went to the front with his guitar to sing his protest song about the strike. Things I Learnt This Year (Strike Version), based on a Show Of Hands song, was well received by members of the audience who admired the stand taken by the striking journalists. Many read copies of the strike newspaper, which were distributed at the Black Swan pub, in York, and voiced messages of support.
Dana and Susan Robinson are touring the United Kingdom to promote their latest album Round My Door. Go to the website for more details.
Below are two letters that have been sent to Steve by supporters:
Local community will suffer
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
Journalists worth more
Steve, Like many journalists, I am shocked that members of the NUJ at the Press are being forced to take strike action in protest at your refusal to meet their claim for a fair and decent pay rise and recognise the challenging, but incredibly important, work they do to make your newspaper what it is. Having worked for Newsquest in the past, I guess you will be telling the local reps that there's nothing you can do and that your hands are tied. I also imagine your bosses are claiming this is a local dispute that must be settled by local negotiation. This is a disgrace and an insult to hardworking journalists who give their all to earn respect and standing in the communities they serve, not to mention the profits they help to generate for Newsquest and its parent company - profits, I might add, which are for the most part taken out of the local economy in York. I urge you to reconsider your position and pay your journalists what they are worth.
NUJ Press and PR
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I am sorry I haven't been able to get to York today for the first day of the strike - I have texted a message of support to you. Just to reinforce that message - you have the support of the whole union in your struggle for fairer wages. It is absurd for the company to argue they cannot afford to meet your claim - they are one of the world's most profitable media companies. The reality is they choose not to meet the claim - they would rather reward shareholders than journalists. Your action is part of a wider campaign to put investment in journalists and journalism back at the heart of our industry. Your action is a vital part of that fight. That's why we're all backing you, why we all wish you success. Your victory is our victory. In solidarity.Then, we received this message from Pete Murray, the union's vice-president and the deputy FoC at Glasgow Broadcasting Chapel:
I just wanted to wish everyone in the chapel all the very best wishes for your action. A decision to take such sustained industrial action shows determination and unity which is an inspiration to all NUJ members. I'm out of the UK at the moment, so I won't be able to visit your picket lines but please pass on my apologies to the members - and my good wishes for a speedy victory in your campaign.
Your newspaper plays an important part in the life and politics of York. The public rely on it for information, to enable them to hold politicians and other public figures to account. I am sorry that your dispute has reached the point of a strike, as I am sure you are, because the public will not be so well informed when so many journalists are not available for work. I hope that you and Newsquest (York) will reach a solution soon. It is definitely not in York's interests for this dispute to escalate into a long-term stoppage.
I write to express my support in your plight for a fair pay rise, at least, in line with inflation. I find it appalling that with the long, unsocial hours journalists work that Newsquest are unable to support their staff fairly. I think it is time for Steve Hughes to take his role as MD seriously before he loses a dedicated team. It's hard to make a stand especially with families to support but you should all be proud that you are and stay in the knowledge that friends and family are all supporting you.
The NUJ Chapel at BBC Radio York supports our colleagues at The Press in your dispute.
Best wishes for your action. I have argued for some time that "local negotiations" are a complete sham. Hopefully your action will lead to some changes. Just wanted to send my support to you all. I spent a few days at the Press last year and knew then some journalists were unhappy with pay and conditions, so good on you all for standing up for yourselves. I feel quite isolated where I work as there is no chapel and branch meetings are 70 miles away, so it is good to know there is another group of activists nearby-ish. Looks like good striking weather anyway!
Good luck. Keep up the good work. All the very best from a northern exile in London. (& it's certainly not paved with gold for most of us drones)
Hi guys - all the best for the strike - good luck with getting a decent pay rise!
Best wishes for the dispute. Hope you get some movement from management. ex-Gazette & Herald
On behalf of members at the Oxford Mail chapel can I salute your stand for better pay and true collective bargaining. Your fight can only inspire all of us working for Newsquest to resist the driving down of wages. We will hold a collection for your strike fund today.
Good luck to you all in your dispute. Your claim is entirely justified and I hope you win through.
Just heard about the strike and want to wish all of you well. Journalists deserve pay and respect.
Members of the Doncaster Free Press NUJ chapel wish you great success in your strike action. I know it is a difficult time because our chapel was out for 13 days in the summer of 2006. Although the company (JP) refused to publicly back down, within six months we had a major pay review which took the lowest grades up by 12-18%!
Just a quick note to say congratulations and good luck for the strike. It's fantastic to see the chapel going from strength to strength - you (we, I suppose) should have taken this action years ago! As an outsider looking in, it beggars belief that you can be treated so badly.
Just read about your strike. I think you are all very brave and hope that you get a much fairer deal as a result.
Here at Johnston Press we are going through turbulent times to with a number of editorial, advertising and admin staff being made redundant. Most of the weekly papers are going to be left with just a staff of two!!!
Congratulations on your industrial action. We took two days' action last year and it really shook the company. It's the only power you have and you have to use it or we will all be ground down. The more Chapels who take a stand the more the employers will see they can't get away with the rubbish they dish out. It benefits us all. We won above inflation (RPI) pay rises for two years and a few improved conditions. We are still fighting for an extra day's holiday. Very best wishes from us all at the North West Evening Mail in Barrow.
I have just emailed your MD Steve Hughes saying that this dispute was completely avoidable had his local management entered into meaningful negotiations with the NUJ. I also told him that it is utterly unrealistic to expect you to settle for 3% when real inflation is over 4% and food inflation is over 10%. I also reminded him that there was no reason why he shouldn't be paying all weekly and monthly seniors a minimum of £20K a year and all evening and morning seniors a minimum of £26K a year. After all, you're all worth it!
My thoughts are with you, my cash will be with you after pay day... good luck.
Good luck in the Grand Old Dispute of York.
Never forget. You are right and they are wrong.
Just to wish my NUJ colleagues at York all the best in their action this week. Something needs to be done to halt the decline in pay and standards at this company.
Dave Nicholson, once editor of what was then the Yorkshire Evening Press (since cut back to The Press by Newsquest) visited the strikers' line today to wish us well. The stories I have heard of Dave's time at the helm was that he was a decent man who cared about his staff, although of course their pay was still poor even then. But he at least recognised that. Today, he dropped by with two bags full of Thornton's chocolate goodies for all the strikers. Dave, we salute you.
- £300 from the Oxford branch
- £100 from the South Yorkshire NUJ Branch and Rotherham Advertiser
- £50 from a much-missed former colleague
- £50 from the Mother of Chapel at Coventry Newspapers
- £75 from our NUJ organiser
- £50 from the Doncaster Free Press Chapel
That takes us to a grand total of £2,725 - simply unbelievable. Please everyone, keep the donations coming. Thank you to all who have shown such wonderful solidarity.
Later on, the Green Party group leader Coun Andy D'Agorne stopped by to offer his backing. Then, to complete a hat-trick of political groups, Coun Ceredig Jamieson-Ball, Liberal Democrat councillor for Heslington, visited the picket line and sent us this message of support:
"It is important that employees in York are able to earn similar rates of pay as other workers. It seems to me that Newsquest are trying to take advantage of York journalists. They should be offered the same rate as elsewhere."While all this was going on, the Lord Mayor of York's limousine drove past our picket, with the civic party on board. The driver gave us a toot. We like the fact one of the new mayor Coun Brian Watson's first acts in office was supporting our strike. Good on you, Brian.
We offer all these councillors our sincere thanks for showing such solidarity.
The management of The Press and the Gazette & Herald are trying their best to ignore our action. Of course, the paper has barely covered the strike beyond a four-par "business as usual" story. (How much commitment does that show to bringing the news to our readers?) They have even drafted in bosses from elsewhere in Newsquest - including Northern Echo editor Peter Barron - to act as reporters and subeditors. So there are plenty of Jags in the car park today.
In light of all this, we are appealing to our friends, supporters and fellow trade unionists to make sure this action cannot simply be brushed under the carpet. Please log on to The Press and the Gazette & Herald websites and use the comments facility on stories to post messages of support and this website address.
Richard will also be performing this song at the Black Swan pub, in Peasholme Green, in York, tonight at 7.30pm.
Here's what he has to say on our strike:
“I fully support the NUJ chapel in York in their action. The quality of journalism at The Press is high but it will be under threat if staff are not offered decent terms and conditions. In order to retain talented journalists who can cover stories in North Yorkshire with flair and insight for the benefit of The Press’s loyal readership, Newsquest management has a responsibility to negotiate a decent deal which provides adequate rewards.”
We are particularly keen to honour those heroes who took part in the NUJ's first ever strike - at the York Herald in 1911 - over Dickensian conditions that saw them working 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
In this vein, four of our members borrowed Edwardian costumes from York Theatre Royal to press home the point that nearly 100 years later trade unions are still fighting on these issues.
Despite scorching temperatures, our four intrepid members trekked around the centre of York handing out fliers and talking to shoppers about our strike.
Pictured in front of York Minster, the four also gatecrashed the Lord Mayor's Procession (the city's ceremonial leader was handing over the baton today). The support from councillors there was massive, with many members of City of York Council and their staff backing our stand.
Both Calendar - ITV's news proggrame for Yorkshire - and the BBC's Look North visited the picket line today to capture footage of the strikers and record interview with chapel members. We were featured on both programmes' lunchtime news slots. Management declined to speak to either station so it was left to us to put across our view. So much the better.
We're thrilled with the coverage, especially given The Press's management's decision to virtually ignore the fact that about 25 of their staff are camped outside their office protesting at their deplorable pay. According to the weasel words on The Press's website, it is "business as usual". You could have fooled us, guys...
We started early - at 7.30am - and we were early enough to wave our placards at management as they slunk into the car park. Later colleagues in the (non-unionised) advertising and circulation department expressed their support as they arrived at work.
The backing from members of the public was immense, with countless drivers 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 covered the dispute in depth, was also popular on the picket line.
Colleagues from York Unison came and joined the picket line early on and at lunchtime, while the postal workers in the CWU gave us their backing. Messages of support have also been flooding in by text to the picket line. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us. We've had solidarity greetings from:
- Brent Trades Council
- The Guardian's media desk
- Irish NUJ members
- Manchester Mental Health Branch Unison
- NUJ members at Northcliffe in Bristol
- British Association of Occupational Therapists members in Manchester
- Manchester trade unionist Karen Reismann
- NUJ East Yorkshire Branch
- Kyran Connolly, NUJ National Executive Committee member for books
- NUJ South Yorkshire Branch and the Rotherham Advertiser Chapel
- NUJ Newsquest Bradford Chapel
- NUJ Newsquest Darlington Chapel
- NUJ BBC Lonndon Branch
- NUJ Book Branch members
- NUJ members at Minster FM
- Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ National Executive Committee member for newspapers and Mother of Chapel at Express Newspapers
- Members of the PCS union
- NUJ Coventry Newspapers Chapel
- NUJ Sheffield Newspapers Chapel
- NUJ London Press and PR Branch
- NUJ News Shopper Chapel
- Ian Allinson, Unite executive council member
- Miles Barter, NUJ Manchester Branch
- NUJ Scottish office
- Kate Carr, NUJ BBC and Wales Council
- Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary
- LexisNexis NUJ negotiating team
- NUJ Scotland
- NUJ Evening Echo/Irish Examiner Chapel
- NUJ Bolton News and Bury Times Chapel
- and NUJ members in Cardiff, Manchester, York and Leeds