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Newsquest members in Bradford and York vote yes for action

5 February 2014

Journalists on Newsquest titles in Bradford and York have voted in favour of strike action and industrial action short of a strike.

The current NUJ dispute at Newsquest is in response to the threat of compulsory redundancies and the impact on quality and workloads after the proposed transfer of subbing work to Newport, Wales.

NUJ members voted by 80 per cent for strike action and 100 per cent for action short of a strike in Bradford. There are 10 jobs at risk in Bradford. The Bradford Newsquest NUJ members produces the Telegraph and Argus, Keighley News, Craven Herald, Ilkley Gazette and the Wharfedale and Aireborough Observer, and also work on all the titles from Newsquest (Yorkshire and North East).

In York NUJ members voted by 83 per cent for strike action and 100 per cent for action short of a strike. There are 5 jobs at risk in York. The York Newsquest titles include The Press (six days a week), Gazette and Herald (weekly paper for the Ryedale area) and Yorkshire Living monthly magazine.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands organiser, said:

"Members at all three Newsquest Yorkshire and North East centres have now delivered emphatic votes in favour of industrial action – not only to defend jobs in their newsrooms but also the quality of the journalism their communities rightfully expect.
"Newsquest should take close heed of this expression of anger and look to modify its plans that nobody but the corporate bean counters have anything good to say about.
"It is not too late for Newsquest bosses to take a fresh look at what their hard-pressed and badly let-down staff are telling them and pull back from the brink of a disastrous experiment that could cause irrevocable damage to their local businesses.
"It is not as if the group is doing badly and having to cut for survival’s sake. Gracia Martore, boss of US parent Gannett yesterday told American money markets that Newsquest was 'solidly profitable' and that she was expecting that the group as a whole would have a 'terrific' 2014. Figures for the last three months of 2013, also showed Newsquest’s digital income rose by almost 19 per cent."

Mark Stead and Tony Kelly, joint Fathers of Chapel at NUJ York, said:

"The fact our members are overwhelming in favour of industrial action is the clearest possible sign of the anger Newsquest’s ill-conceived and thrown-together proposals have caused,
"They are not prepared to see talented, experienced, flexible and utterly dedicated journalists tossed aside and have their lives thrown into chaos because of Newsquest’s bizarre belief that subbing hubs – which have already proved disastrous and have harmed the editorial reputation of newspapers wherever they have been attempted – are somehow the answer.
"The Newport proposals are not about efficiency and they are not about quality journalism. They are purely so a very profitable company can cut even more costs by treating the people who matter in local journalism with contempt. We hope this ballot result, and those at our sister papers in Darlington and Bradford, will lead to a Newsquest rethink and the abandonment of these proposals."

The proposals will involve the loss of 10 full-and part-time sub-editing jobs and one writer's job on the Northern Echo, the daily regional newspaper based in Darlington. In total more than 20 editorial jobs will be lost from the region. The NUJ Newsquest members will meet tomorrow, Thursday 6 February, to discuss a plan of action following the ballot results.

Last week, NUJ members in Darlington voted to take action and the NUJ chapel said:

"We are delighted to get such a strong vote in favour of industrial action. It clearly shows the strength of feeling among members against the proposals to transfer the work to Wales and potential redundancies. We, along with the York and Bradford chapels, will continue to fight to retain members' jobs and keep production of our valued publications in the North."

The Darlington titles are the Northern Echo, Living magazine, Darlington & Stockton Times, Durham Times, Advertiser series and Northern Farmer.

Details of the Darlington ballot result announced on Friday 31 January.

Gannett (US owner of Newsquest) released its quarterly figures for the group on Tuesday 4 February and the release states:

"As a result, each of our segments was solidly profitable in the fourth quarter and we continue to generate substantial free cash flow. We continue to invest wisely and remain relentlessly focused on the execution of our strategic initiatives, raising the bar on operational excellence, and enhancing the strength of our balance sheet, which provides us with the flexibility to continue to invest in our businesses and explore promising new opportunities. These accomplishments - coupled with the increased advertising demand we are anticipating in connection with the Winter Olympics and elections - position us extremely well for a terrific 2014."

Read the full release from Gannett.

Tags: , york, bradford, newsquest, ballot, cuts, regional newspapers, darlington, yorkshire living, strike, redundancies, northern echo, gannet