MORE than 200 years of York's industrial heritage is to end in 2009 after Newsquest announced the print hall at The Press is to close with the loss of 22 jobs.
A bombshell announcement today confirmed that all print hall jobs, including printers and engineers, will go at The Press, which - as the York Herald and the Yorkshire Evening Press - has been printed in the medieval walled city since 1790.
From next month neither the daily paper, nor its weekly partner the Gazette and Herald, will be printed in York.
As of January 18, the print operation will be moved 35 miles to its sister Newsquest paper, the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, while another Newsquest title, the Northern Echo
, which is also printed at York, will be shifted to a Trinity Mirror printing operation in Teesside.
The National Union of Journalists chapel at The Press and the Gazette and Herald - which is currently voting on proposed industrial action
over a pay freeze and the prospect of compulsory redundancies once a new editorial management re-structure is finalised later this week - is appalled at the closure of the print hall.
Said Father of Chapel Tony Kelly: "It is scandalous that our print-room colleagues are being treated so disgracefully. Talk about Merry Christmas.
"And it is also outrageous that such a long-standing tradition of a thriving newspaper being printed in York, one of England's greatest cities, will soon be at an end.
"The management have cited 'challenging trading conditions' and 'steps to improve the efficiency' of the business, but we understand Newsquest York will turn in a profit of £1million this year following on from the 2007 profit of £4.3million.
"Yet this is the reward workers at Newsquest are increasingly being given. No pay awards on the one hand or out the door and on the dole on the other."
It is understood from sources in the printing union Unite that Newsquest management have been formulating plans for the closure of the print hall for the past six weeks.
However, less than three weeks ago workers at The Walmgate-based newspaper offices were assured by regional managing director David Coates that there were no plans to close the printing operation at York and transfer the work to Bradford.
NUJ Northern Regional organiser Chris Morley said: "This is a disastrous blow not only for regional and local newspapers in York and the surrounding area but throughout the country as there would appear to be a new agenda here of supposedly rival companies striking cosy deals with each other to allow them to slash staff numbers still further.
"If this is allowed to be reproduced elsewhere, then local newspapers throughout the country will become ever more distanced from the communities they seek to serve - with the consequential decline in influence in their area and adding to the pressure on already sagging incomes.
"And perhaps the worst feature of this shabby announcement is that it yet another example of Newsquest's management at York breaking their word to their staff. All the time senior managers were reassuring staff that there were no plans to close the presses, they were in fact in close negotiation with their rivals at Trinity Mirror to do exactly that."
22 December 2008