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Newsquest South London staff declare 14-day strike

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29 September 2016

Journalists working on newspapers owned by Newsquest in south London have voted to hold a 14-day strike starting next Thursday in response to company plans to put nearly all the newsroom staff at risk of redundancy.

They want to put pressure on the company to re-think these plans and to highlight the chapel’s concerns about health and safety at work, inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads and deterioration in the quality of local journalism due to consecutive local cuts. Six reporters have resigned since the redundancy announcement.

The titles and websites affected include the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.

The two-week strike will start on 6 October at 00:01 hours until 23:59 hours on 19 October. The NUJ said it was willing to meet management to resolve these issues.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Conditions are tough in the newspaper market, but getting rid of dedicated and talented staff, leaving those remaining with impossible workloads, is not the answer.
“A handful of reporters, with help from a few work experience students, cannot cover half the capital. This will damage the quality of the newspapers and websites and will have a knock-on effect on circulation figures.

“The huge response from local politicians and London Assembly members across the political spectrum shows they fear reduced news coverage will have a negative impact on local democracy and the holding to account of councils and local businesses.

“My members do not want to take this action, but they have been forced by a management which is intent on maintaining profit for shareholders at the expense of the health of its workforce.”

A chapel spokesperson said:

"Newsquest is determined to enforce a structure on this newsroom which management openly admit mean the quality of our papers will suffer. They acknowledge that 'generic' reporting will become the order of the day; holding local democracy to account will be non-existent.
"Concerns about staff welfare have been repeatedly dismissed. They have refused to negotiate with the chapel, despite our repeated attempts. We want to reach an agreement with the company, but not at any cost. It is no-one's first choice is to go on strike, but the company have left us with no other option. We care too much about our readers to stand by and watch our papers destroyed."

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

“It is heart-breaking to see ambitious and enthusiastic young journalists being thwarted by unacceptable hours, a content management system which is not fit for purpose and poor working conditions. These newspapers have let go people with many years of experience and now staff are voting with their feet and getting out. This is putting huge pressure on those who remain.”

The chapel would like to thank NUJ chapels and members who have offered messages of support. Now, they are asking for donations to sustain them as they take this action. If you are sending a donation can you also please email Bernard Roche at noting the amount and send the money to:

Account number 20143387
Sort code 608301

IBAN GB93NWBK60023571418024

Tags: , local newspapers, local news matters, newsquest, newsquest south london, strike