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Darlington votes for strike as action spreads across Newsquest

1 December 2010

NUJ members at Newsquest Darlington have voted strongly in favour of strike action, as the dispute with the company escalates across the UK. 78% of NUJ members in Darlington voted for strike action and 85% voted for action short of a strike.

Adding to the building campaign, NUJ members at Newsquest Hampshire in Andover will also ballot for action. Further ballots are planned in York, Bradford, Bolton and Blackburn.

The strong result in favour of action in Darlington, coupled with the ballot for action in Hampshire, demonstrates the determination of NUJ members at Newsquest to stand together to oppose pay freezes, attacks on pensions and ruinous job cuts.

Newsquest is now facing strikes at three major locations.

Members in Southampton and Brighton took 48-hour strike action earlier this month and have given notice of a further co-ordinated 2-day stoppage on Tuesday 7 December and Wednesday 8 December.

The NUJ National Executive Council will spearhead a national campaign around the situation at Newsquest and in full support of members taking action. The action at Newsquest is a result of widespread attacks on journalists working for the company.

Journalists at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Ilkley Gazette, Wharfedale & Airedale Observer and the Keighley News are facing the sack and the humiliation of having to apply for replacement jobs, on far worse terms and conditions. This follows Newsquest's announcement that they intend to sack 18 journalists and create 16 new posts in their place.

Journalists at Newsquest's Blackburn centre have endured a 2-year pay freeze and management have failed to commit to pay talks for 2011.

NUJ members at Newsquest Northeast - one of Newsquest's regional operations, drawing together a range of titles, including The Northern Echo, Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and the Advertiser series are protesting against proposed redundancies and a continuing pay freeze.

Newsquest has also announced the closure of the final salary pension scheme.

The NUJ has co-ordinated a rolling programme of action at Newsquest that shows the strength of feeling amongst NUJ members. The attacks on quality journalism continue despite the company generating huge profits.

The latest accounts for parent company Gannett UK show that the highest paid director enjoyed a massive £108,000 – or 21.5 per cent - hike in his overall pay to £609,235. In addition, he managed to secure a huge boost in pension contributions from £38,500 in 2008 to £95,000 last year – a 59 per cent increase.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, who is heading up the union's campaign said:

"NUJ members at Newsquest are standing up for journalists and journalism. They are fighting the corporate greed which is doing so much damage to their papers and websites and they have the full support of the union.
"There has been a magnificent campaign by our members at Newsquest to resist the attacks on jobs, pay, pensions and quality journalism. There is a real determination amongst members to work together to put collective pressure on the company. NUJ members at Newsquest have the entire union supporting them in the fight to put journalism before profit. Our strength is in our support for each other as trade union members and I'm pleased the NEC has agreed the union will prioritise this campaign."

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands Organiser, said:

"The overwhelming vote by our members at Darlington gives the strongest possible signal to the company that enough is enough and that there is a determined mood to prevent the company committing more vandalism to their great newspapers and associated websites.
"It is no coincidence that Newsquest is now facing strikes at three major locations with a whole string of NUJ chapels at other centres queueing up to be balloted for strike action. Our members do not want to have to take industrial action but the company's arrogance and gross insensitivity gives them no alternative in doing all they can to defend their standard of living, their jobs and ultimately their profession. It is not too late for senior managers to pull away from the ruinous path they are taking the company and instead enter into real, meaningful discussions with the NUJ at all levels to find a solution in the best interests of all."

Tags: , jobs, ilkley gazette, southampton, strike, brighton, durham times, bradford, pay and conditions, keighley news, newsquest, pensions, york, advertiser series, telegraph & argus, local newspapers, pay freeze, hampshire, bolton, darlington, blackburn, gannett, darlington and stockton times, newspapers, northern echo, wharfedale observer