Newry journalists to strike over redundancies
14 March 2011
Journalists are to strike over enforced redundancies at the Newry Democrat in Northern Ireland. The newspaper is owned by the Alpha Newspaper Group, headed by former Unionist Party deputy leader Lord Kilclooney.
The NUJ strike is due to begin with a one-day stoppage next Monday. Further stoppages may be called by the NUJ unless the company engages in negotiations with the union. Management is making all four editorial production posts at the paper redundant on minimum statutory terms.
Ian McGuinness, NUJ assistant organiser, said the Alpha group must either reinstate statt or offer enhanced redundancy payments. He added:
"The union continues to oppose Alpha's decision to make all four editorial production posts redundant. These staff gave many years loyal service. Their work was of a very high standard and they were crucial for the publication of a quality local newspaper.
"The very least that Alpha can do is to increase their miserly statutory redundancy payments. Lord Kilclooney, who recently appeared on Ireland's Rich List, can afford to make payments beyond the statutory minimum."
Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, called on the company to attend negotiations under the auspices of the Labour Relations Agency.
"The NUJ is willing to negotiate with the company at any stage and it is disappointing that Lord Kilclooney and his executives have been unwilling to engage in negotiations facilitated by a State agency. Strike action is avoidable, but management appears determined to force workers onto the picket line rather than engaging in meaningful negotiations."
Alpha took ownership of the Newry Democrat last November, just a few months after the group closed three newspapers in the Republic of Ireland (Roscommon Champion, Longford News and Athlone Voice).
Despite meetings between Alpha and the NUJ, the company proceeded with the enforced redundancies and moved the work elsewhere in the Alpha group. The four production staff were subsequently made redundant and only given statutory redundancy payments.
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, paid tribute to the solidarity shown by the Democrat's journalists to their colleagues who were made redundant.
"They have supported their colleagues at every step of this difficult process and are now ready to stand up and demand fair treatment for them. Let us hope Lord Kilclooney and Alpha listen."