Strike ballot & dismal working conditions at Newsquest South London
28 November 2016
Today marks four weeks since Newsquest South London ended their strike action and the NUJ chapel has today given notice of a new ballot for further strike action. Back at work the strikers say they are shocked by how poorly managed and unsustainable their jobs have become.
The chapel has been following strict work to rule, but say that even if they were staying hours late in the office to continue working, it would be simply impossible for such a small number of reporters to continue to fill so many newspapers with journalism of any quality.
A large part of every day is spent answering calls from angry readers asking where the letters page has gone, why the same generic stories are being run week after week, and why the papers are so small.
The company insists that 12 reporters and one content editor are enough, but the company has fallen into such disrepute that it has found it almost impossible to recruit new staff to fill positions left by angry resignations - including one reporter who handed in his notice within days of returning to work.
There are currently 10 reporters and one editor doing the work that used to be done by 22 reporters and 8 editors, while production staff are being forced to cover sports and leisure on top of their own jobs for no extra money. There is just one reporter left with any knowledge of south east London, and the company is axing two of the News Shopper papers.
An NUJ chapel spokesperson said:
"We came back off strike to prove to the company that what they were asking of us could never work, but it came as a shock to see just how disorganised and poorly planned our new structure is, and just how willing Newsquest is to kill its own products.
"Newsquest's new initiative to have readers submit their own stories - because there are too few of us to cover community news properly - is embarrassing, and will further undermine us as a local news outlet. We should be telling people what's happening in their local community. Instead, we are asking readers to do our jobs for us. It's farcical.
"We have been promised 12 reporters by Christmas, but with staff continuing to resign while people who are offered the jobs continue to refuse them, it's hard to believe Newsquest can even manage this.
"In the meantime, we keep asking for holiday time over Christmas to be approved or even talked about, but we keep being ignored.
"People with families or who need to get out of London over the holiday period still have no idea when they will be expected to work. It feels like Newsquest are attempting to dish out the ultimate punishment to their striking staff by trying to cancel Christmas."
The chapel spokesperson added:
"Our managing editor Andy Parkes recently wrote in the papers that he was pleased to say our strike action was over.
"We would like to reassure Newsquest that we are still united and determined in our opposition to their reckless and illogical cuts, and that our action is far from over."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"Our members are continuing to fight for the quality local journalism which they believe in, even in the teeth of Newsquest's corporate neglect of its staff and readers. The campaign for properly resourced local journalism is more important than ever and our members are torch bearers for journalists in numerous local newsrooms around the country where the picture is the same."