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Newsquest South London votes to strike

12 September 2016

Journalists working at Newsquest titles in South London have voted in favour of strike action and industrial action short of a strike; the ballot result comes days after the company announced plans to put nearly all of the newsroom staff at risk of redundancy. 

The titles affected include the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper (Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham editions) as well as their associated websites.

The result of the three-week ballot, which closed on Friday 9 September, saw 71.4 per cent of staff vote for strike action, while 81 per cent backed action short of a strike.

Journalists were balloted over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees, and pay rates.

Newsquest also announced the entire newsroom staff, bar the group managing editor and the web editor, were at risk of redundancy just two days before the close of the ballot.

Staff questioned the timing of the announcement, saying it seemed "opportunistic" since it was by then too late for ballots to be returned.

Four reporters, two content editors, three subeditors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor will all be dismissed by mid-October, according to the company.

The latest cuts come exactly a week after it was announced that none of the south London titles would continue to employ professional photographers after Sunday 11 September.

An NUJ chapel spokesperson said:

"This ballot result shows members are more than up for the fight not only to save jobs, but to boost investment in our newsroom.
"If the company expects to implement these cuts with little resistance it’s in for a nasty surprise.
"We also question the timing of the announcement that 11 members of staff will be made redundant – and all bar two members of staff could lose their jobs.
"It smacks of cynicism and underhand tactics. Almost all ballot papers were in the post before Wednesday 7 September. We couldn't react to the news, because it was past our deadline to get our votes in.
"Clearly they are either treating this dispute with a complete lack of the respect it deserves, or they’re running scared – or both."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Instead of trying to resolve a serious dispute, Newsquest has reacted with plans that will trash what is left of its local titles in London. How can they pretend that these local newspapers would have any credible future if they continue down this path? The public and political outpouring of shock and anger at this announcement has been widespread, and it shows that London communities are not going to stand by while an axe is taken to valued local papers.
"Newsquest needs to step back from this decision, halt this ill-thought-out cuts programme, and engage with their staff and the NUJ."

Tags: , local news matters, cuts, redundancies, south london, london