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

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

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
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

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, sign our petition online at and lobby your MP to sign EDM 1639 by logging on to 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

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.