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