Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Journalists take a stand

Journalists at The Press and Gazette and Herald in York walked out of work as their dispute with management over job losses continued.

Members of NUJ chapel held a 12-hour meeting yesterday [Tuesday 24 February], starting at noon and finishing at midnight. The meeting, held in the Five Lions pub in Walmgate, York, came following last Friday’s announcement that seven out of 59 editorial jobs were to go at the Newsquest titles.

It was the latest in a series of mandatory meetings held by the chapel in recent weeks, but the first to last more than an hour. It is believed to have caused major disruption to both the daily title, The Press, and its weekly sister-paper, the Gazette and Herald, which prints on a Tuesday.

The NUJ has called for guarantees that Newsquest will not force through compulsory job losses at the papers, to no avail. The decision to stay out all afternoon yesterday followed the release, by managing editor Steve Hughes, of a skills matrix, proposed for use in the event of compulsory lay-offs.

Joint Fathers of Chapel, Tony Kelly and Gavin Aitchison, said: “We have been pressing the company for nearly two months to assure our members that there will be no compulsory redundancies. Newsquest has failed to give that assurance, and having seen the arbitrary and unjust assessment criteria proposed by the company, the chapel decided it was time to take a stand.

“The Press and Gazette and Herald have suffered horrific cuts in recent years. The papers have been mismanaged and mistreated, and further cuts will only serve to further hinder our ability to serve our readers in York, North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.

“Newsquest (York) Ltd has repeatedly recorded multi-million profits, which have been shipped to its parent company in the United States. The journalists and readers of The Press and Gazette and Herald deserve better than Newsquest is able or willing to offer.”

Adam Christie, NUJ National Executive Council member for the North East of England, who attended the meeting, said: “If taking action is the only way journalists can get their voices heard, then this is what we will have to do.”