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Johnston Press journalists strike in Scarborough

Picket in Scarborough

Picket in Scarborough  -  © Andrew Higgins

29 April 2010

Journalists at the Johnston Press-owned Scarborough Evening News went on strike on Friday 30 April in defence of jobs and newspaper standards. Their colleagues across the Johnston Press group concluded a ballot on a widespread campaign of strike action.

The NUJ leafleted a meeting of the company's shareholders in Edinburgh to make them aware of the disastrous introduction by Group executives of the Atex content management system at its local newspapers. Leaflets from the NUJ explained that the Atex system has led to a dangerous drop in the quality of Johnston local newspapers, with many titles printing blank spaces and other laughable errors.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The Scarborough journalists and their colleagues are in the vanguard of a massive wave of discontent across the Johnston group over management's implementation of Atex, cutting staffing levels and increasing workloads. I'm confident our members' action will attract massive support from across the union and among readers.
"Their fight is for jobs, but it is also for quality. Johnston Press is damaging the newspapers our members produce, creating a product which can only fail to satisfy readers. That is an attack on local communities and local democracy.
"Shareholders meeting in Edinburgh were told by the NUJ that editorial resources at the group have been cut to the bone to pay for the Johnston debt mountain which was created a through a foolish policy of buying up other titles at high cost. Now the bankers want repayment, and an inept management is seeking to cut costs by slashing jobs. That is damaging the quality of the Johnston newspapers, with an obvious impact on sales.
"The only way out of this spiral of self-destruction is for the company to sit down with the union to negotiate – over pay and fair reward, over the implementation of the Atex system and over workloads and staffing levels – so that a damaging dispute can be avoided. It is not too late for the management to start talking."

Journalists at Scarborough have described the impact of management cost-cutting and the rushed introduction of the Atex system on their work and the service they provide to readers:

"It has meant the entire sub-editing department has been lost, so that reporters now have to do the work of sub-editors, writing headlines and working on pages, as well as their existing workload of reporting and writing.
"Drastic cuts in staffing levels mean we as journalists can't do the job we want to do. We are not getting out to speak to people, and we can't cover court stories or council meetings often enough. We have to work unacceptably long hours to cover staff shortages and our health and safety is being put at risk.
"Journalists have accepted many new technologies and work practices, but this loss of valued and skilled colleagues' jobs, and the extra workload imposed on us is unacceptable. We feel our flexibility and willingness to adapt and learn has been taken for granted by management.
"Our managers are cutting corners and compromising on quality so much that we have reached the point where enough is enough. We feel it's time to make a stand."

Tags: , newspapers, johnston press, scarborough, scarborough evening news, scarborough, ballot, pay, cuts, atex, stress, local newspapers, quality journalism