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.