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

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, 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."