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Newsquest London strike pauses for talks

© Beowulf Mayfield

30 June 2015

The 12-day Newsquest  London strike has been put on pause to allow negotiations to take place.

The NUJ members agreed to go back to work today and a meeting with the management will take place this afternoon.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"The strike is on pause to allow talks to take place. We have agreed to continue negotiations with the management and hope we can reach a settlement. The strike was due to end on Wednesday 1 July, followed by a work to rule."

The dispute is over cuts, pay and a staff restructuring on the Croydon Guardian, Sutton Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Wimbledon Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian, Balham and Tooting Guardian, Mitcham and Morden Guardian, Kingston Guardian, Surrey Comet, Elmbridge Comet, and the Richmond & Twickenham Times. Staff on The News Shopper series, with editions in Dartford, Lewisham, Greenwich, Gravesend, Bexley and Bromley, held a two-day strike last week.

A letter has been sent from Stephen Alambritis, leader of  Merton Council, Kevin Davis, leader of Kingston council, Ruth Dombey, leader of Sutton council, Lord True, leader of Richmond council, and Tony Newman, leader of Croydon council, to Gary Kendall, managing director Newsquest (London) Ltd.

It said:

"We are writing to express our concern at the recent announcement by Newsquest regarding your restructuring, which we believe will lead to a reduction in locally based reporters and to a serious erosion of your important role in holding elected local politicians to account. 
"As council leaders in south London boroughs, we very much value the contribution to debate that comes from our local newspapers. Although we do not always agree with them on every issue, we have also found your reporters to be both independent and challenging of our councils where required.
"Your reporters do a vital job in covering local stories of interest to residents across south London and to lose this local link would be disastrous. I do hope you will think again about your plans and do all you can to protect your excellent service across south London.”

A cross-party letter from the London Assembly,  to Newsquest, signed by Valerie Shawcross for the Labour group, Darren Johnson for the Green group, Caroline Pidgeon for Liberal Democrat group and Andrew Boff for the Conservative group, said the cuts posed a: "real threat to democratic awareness and will undermine these local communities and business sectors. We need local papers of a reasonable quality to ensure democratic scrutiny, accountability and encourage an informed and active citizenship."

An early day motion sponsored by Tania Mathias, Conservative MP for Twickenham, has been signed by MPs from all parties, including Peter Bottomley, Tom Brake, Jeremy Corbyn , Paul Flynn, Vicky Foxcroft, Zac Goldsmith, Boris Johnson, Caroline Lucas, Chris Philp, Liz Saville Roberts, Paul Scully and Christopher Stephens. It said the MPs noted that Newsquest had made large profits in recent years and they were “concerned about the impact that these job losses could have on the quality of local journalism".

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