Friday, May 23, 2008

Power is in chapel's hands

Another hot, sunny day on the York line and more feel-good vibes among the pickets. We started early again at 7.30am and although there were a few tired legs our spirits were high and about 25 union members picketed throughout the day. We were joined by former NUJ regional organiser Miles Barter, from the Manchester Branch, as well as NUJ official Jenny Lennox. They brought their branch's impressive-looking banner, which we raised in front of the building.

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
Our four members dressed in Edwardian garb descended on the city centre once more. On Day 1, they managed to gatecrash the official Lord Mayor's Parade, pictured below. This time they headed for the city's Shambles in search of actor and Sharpe star Sean Bean. He was in town filming for a movie of Robinson Crusoe and we thought we'd try to infiltrate the set and get him to the picket line. No luck so far, but we did get a number of extras on set supporting the strike. We'll keep on trying.

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.