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Leading politicians rally behind Herald journalists

4 December 2008

Scottish and Westminster politicians have expressed concern that journalists on The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times in Glasgow are being threatened with redundancy and told to reapply for their own jobs.

Newsquest, the American owned company that runs the papers, wants to reduce the number of journalists from 250 to 210.

Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, urged the company to rethink their decision during question time at the Holyrood parliament today.

Angus Robertson MP, Westminster Leader of the Scottish National Party and Vice-Chairman of NUJ Parliamentary Group, said:

"These developments are really worrying for the staff concerned at The Herald and for readers of the paper.
"It has come as a real shock that all Herald journalists have been given redundancy notices and told to re-apply for their jobs.
"Scotland needs to retain leading home grown titles like The Herald and current developments are a major concern."

Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, said:

"I am appalled at the decision by Newsquest to make all but a handful of journalists at its Glasgow titles redundant and re-apply for their jobs.
"At a time when journalists at Newsquest feel staff numbers are so low that they are already placed under unacceptable levels of stress the last thing the company should be doing is looking to place its staff under additional pressure by cutting numbers even further."

Pete Wishart MP, SNP Westminster Culture Spokesman, said:

"This is an extremely serious development both for staff across the group, and also a sad day for three of Scotland's great titles.
"Any decision that threatens news coverage and quality is clearly troubling, and these cut backs are a backward step by the group's owners.
"When Newsquest acquired these newspapers they made a commitment to develop, and invest in them, regrettably those words do not seem to have been backed up by investment.
"Alongside the announcement of job losses at BBC Scotland this is a sad day for Scottish journalism.
"As we look at the detail of this announcement, Newsquest must constructively engage with the workforce and unions."

Austin Mitchell MP, a former TV journalist and chair of the NUJ parliamentary group, said:

"Treating long standing journalists in this disgraceful way is an indication of panic not careful planning for the future.
"The strength and quality of a newspaper depends on the skill and loyalty of its journalists. For Newsquest to treat them in this fashion is completely unacceptable."

John McDonnell MP, former Labour leadership contender and secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group, said:

"This shock announcement is extremely alarming given that the current staffing levels at Newquest owned titles are placing unacceptable levels of stress on journalists.
"Newsquest should be doing all it can to maintain the integrity and standards of The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times in order to preserve this critical service to local people.
"Not only is this just bad practice to treat hard working staff in such a way, it fuels massive uncertainty around the future of local news in Glasgow."

Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said:

"I am extremely concerned at the way these staff, many of whom have given years of service to these papers, have been treated".

Talks between the NUJ and company about the job cuts started yesterday.

Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser, said:

"The initial shock and anger at the announcement was so great that we almost had a spontaneous walk out.
"Full and frank talks have started and will continue. Today we are exchanging information with the company. I am hopeful that we can reach a negotiated agreement about the future of the titles."

Journalists at the Herald group were already in dispute with the company over unacceptable stress levels.

The NUJ parliamentary group in Westminster includes around 30 MPs from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats, SNP and Plaid Cymru parties. The group meets regularly with the union to discuss media industry policy.

Tags: , newsquest, newspapers, cuts, herald scotland, evening times, sunday herald, mps, parliament uk, parliament scotland, snp, labour party britain, redundancies, stress, gannet