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Johnston Press accused of using work placement to break strike

19 July 2011

Striking South Yorkshire journalists have accused their management of using work placement volunteers to undermine the industrial action launched by the NUJ last Friday to protect jobs and quality journalism.

At the Selby Times a 16-year-old has been asked to extend his work experience by a week by bosses desperate to ensure the paper is printed on time. The Selby Times is one of four South Yorkshire Newspapers titles on indefinite strike following the recent announcement of 18 job cuts and a subsequent deterioration in working conditions.

The teenager, who originally approached the paper asking to shadow the sports editor, is believed to have been asked to work on both news and sports stories by management placed on a crisis footing by the dispute.

The Selby Times has been reduced to only a sports editor and editor, who himself was on holiday for Friday and much of Monday, which led to the desperate staffing measures.

Journalists at the Doncaster Free Press, another paper involved in the dispute, also believe young people on work experience are being used to help publish their paper this week, as almost all the paper's journalists are on indefinite strike.

Lawrence Shaw, NUJ negotiator, said:

"We want a full and unambiguous assurance from management that they are not relying on youngsters and students working for free to produce content to get their newspapers out.
"If SYN management were found to be abusing the goodwill of youngsters to break the strike it would be utterly unforgiveable. They need to make it clear they are not doing this."

Johnson Press is also believed to have broken its own rules in its desperate attempts to publish one of four newspapers currently affected.

A member of staff, currently on a two-week period of sick leave which started on Monday June 11, is believed to have been asked to work from home to help get the Epworth Bells paper out on Thursday. The Bells is in the dispute along with the Doncaster Free Press, the Selby Times and the South Yorkshire Times.

The NUJ chapel say that this is in clear breach of the company's own regulations.

Tags: , newspapers, regional newspapers, local newspapers, johnston press, strike, epworth bells, doncaster free press, selby times, south yorkshire newspapers, south yorkshire times, work experience