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