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Newsquest strikers come out in force in North West and London

25 June 2014

Journalists at Newsquest titles in Blackburn and London formed early morning picket lines to protest against the transfer of editorial production to Wales, the loss of jobs and closure of newspaper offices.

Messages of solidarity from MPs, local politicians, trade union colleagues, NUJ members and fellow journalists came flooding in. Supporters can follow the day's action and add messages of support to #NQstrike, @Blackburn_NUJ, @Save_Elbridge, @Save_the_RTT. 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, joined the strikers on the picket line in Sutton. Tim Dawson, vice-president joined members from the Salford branch in solidarity.

Mike Murphy-Pyle, Father of Chapel Sutton, said:

"Newsquest's ongoing policy of managed decline has led to a situation where it is affecting communities. Richmond and Twickenham no longer have a long-established newspaper operating within the community and across the company titles are suffering as over-stretched journalists struggle to do their jobs. What we want is to be able to serve the communities we are published in properly. As it stands, many of us find ourselves unable to do that to the best of their ability. No-one became a journalist to be a millionaire and we don't ask for much. All we want is to be given the resources to do our jobs properly and recognition that we are hard-working, innovative and dedicated to the communities we serve."

Andrew Brassleay, deputy  FoC at Sutton, said:

"This strike is because of the closure of an office, title and posts plus the loss of wages over the years to hardworking journalists. People who put a great deal of pride into their work and are very talented people who care deeply about the paper they work on and their readers and who feel cheapened by Newsquest's actions. All we ask is to see some investment from Newsquest into their titles to demonstrate there is some commitment to the future, because without it it's hard to believe there is."

Robert Fisk, Croydon Guardian news editor, said:

"Croydon Guardian’s journalists are on strike in protest at what is happening to the paper. We believe passionately in serving Croydon with high-quality journalism, holding politicians to account, supporting local events and organisations, providing vital information and an entertaining read.  But sadly at the moment this is not possible.

"Since January, the number of staff has gone down from four to two. Our trainee reporter has had to become a trainee reporter, senior reporter, chief reporter and arts and entertainment editor rolled into one. Getting out to cover stories is a rarity. This makes it difficult to deliver a high-quality news product to the thousands of people across Croydon who deserve nothing less than this.
"Newsquest  has also slashed the number of staff on its Sutton, Wimbledon, Kingston, Wandsworth, Richmond, Twickenham and Surrey titles.
"The National Union of Journalists is on strike because we feel the management needs to listen to us about ways to create a better future for the Croydon Guardian and the community it serves."

A town the size of Croydon needs its local papers and we should all support their cause, writes Tim Pollard, deputy leader of the Conservative group on Croydon Council. Read his blog.

NQ Blackburn strike
Newsquest Blackburn strike © Private

The Lancashire Telegraph, Bolton News; Bolton Journal; Bury Journal; Bury Times all came out over the proposed transfer of editorial production.

Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands organiser, said: "Our chapel at Blackburn had an amazingly successful day in getting the message out to the community about the damage Newsquest is about to inflict on its own titles and journalists. A loud and confident march took the town centre by storm and created huge interest over the fact jobs were being lost locally and sent 200 miles away.

"Newsquest dare not consult with its readers over this and just wants to brush it under the carpet and hope nobody notices. But they are noticing and getting angry that their local paper is being pulled apart in this way. We were met on the steps of the town hall by Blackburn with Darwen council leader Kate Hollern who was very supportive to the chapel and their demands for a rethink by the company. The editor I'm sure got the message loud and clear as his office was directly above the picket line where singing and chanting was in full swing and a cluster of NUJ strike balloons rose on a string to his window."

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"This dispute at its simplest is about standing up for local journalism. I commend NUJ members for taking this action to expose the relentless corporate cost cutting by Newsquest which is undermining quality journalism in communities it's supposed to speak for. It has led to job losses, increased work load and real terms pay cuts for staff expected to pick up the pieces through professional pride. We're asking readers who value local journalism in all its forms to back our campaign."

Messages of support

The essence of a good local newspaper is that it is produced by reporters, photographers, subs and editors who live in the community that their publication serves, and know what matters to people in their area. Centralising the editing of local news might be good for the profits of the proprietor, but it's not good for those who value quality local journalism.  NUJ members deserve our total support in taking action to defend local news and journalists' jobs. #solidarity John McDonnell MP, secretary, NUJ Parliamentary Group.

NQblackburn strike
Newsquest Blackburn strike © Private

Journalists at Newsquest have my full support in defending employment conditions and reporting standards in regional and local newspapers. I hope their action is successful. Kelvin Hopkins MP

"As a former local newspaper journalist myself, I know how essential being part of the community you serve is to understanding and reporting on it. This goes far beyond getting place names and geography right; it's about knowing the people, the community, the organisations, and the real local concerns, which is only possible when you are on the ground.And good local news reporting is essential to democracy. We've seen the growth in places of excellent online news sources, but the financial structures aren't yet in place to allow that type of coverage to be anything like wide enough to fill the gaps being increasingly left by giant newspaper groups closing and slashing back local newspapers that often have behind them a century or more of tradition." Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader

POA send a message of solidarity to NUJ striking members and wish you well in your struggle with your dispute. Steve Gillan, general secretary.

We welcome the opportunity to send a message of Solidarity, on behalf of all URTU members, to our brothers and sisters at the NUJ taking part in strike action today. Robert Monks, general secretary

PCS sends its solidarity to NUJ members on strike today at Newsquest in London and the North West. These workers have shown their commitment to defending their jobs with a massive vote for strike action - and it behoves Newsquest management to sit down and negotiate with the union. Locally-delivered local newspapers are an essential part of democracy, and we support NUJ members in standing up for the vital public service they provide. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary:

Members in Wales fully support the action being taken by our Newsquest colleagues in the North West of England and London. e stand in solidarity with them as they fight to protect jobs, quality journalism and the vital role local newspapers play in their communities.  Their employer has demonstrated a complete disregard for our members’ professionalism, commitment and experience and insults the readers they serve by removing crucial sub editors' roles from the heart of their local operations.  Many of those jobs are being relocated to a hub in Newport and we have concerns about the working conditions the journalists based there will face.  We will work hard to unionise that workplace and to protect journalists working there against the inevitable pressures they will face.  Paul Scott, NEC member for Wales.

NQ Citizen
Newsquest Citizen © Private

Times are hard and fight is a tough one but we have to fight for our rights not just for ourselves but for the future generations as well. Keep well and keep trying. With all the best wishes,  Arjum Wajid, NUJ NEC member.

Having worked with you for a number of years in the past, you are undoubtedly one of the most enthusiastic and passionate journalists I have worked with.  Knowing you as I do, I know for you to even consider going on strike must be a response to a totally unacceptable situation there.  Newspaper owners seem to think it's a piece of cake writing and editing a local newspaper, and that it can be done with a handful of reporters, a team of subs 100 miles away and no photographers. They seem to think reporters won't mind working a lot more weekends and evenings for no extra money. They seem to think all their staff are happy to work far longer than their contracted hours for the cause, and it's a real tribute to a lot of journalists that they are. They seem to think it acceptable to constantly increase targets and workload while cutting staff and introducing never-ending pay freezes for all staff.  Hugh Fort,  website editor, Trinity Mirror South.

Wish I could be with you today.  In a week when the reputation of journalists is being trashed you are a shining light.  Good luck,  Dave Toomer,  former Newsquest FoC.

Please pass on our best wishes and solidarity from all at BFAWU.

Lancs MPs Jack Straw, Nigel Evans and Lindsay Hoyle send their support

Jack Straw
Lancs MPs Jack Straw, Nigel Evans and Lindsay Hoyle © Private

No-one wants to take industrial action but it is testament to what is at stake that this strike has become necessary. The strength of feeling among NUJ members is quite clear with four in five members voting to strike. My thoughts today are with those people who face losing their jobs, their families and their colleagues standing in solidarity. I only hope that Newsquest will come to the negotiating table to listen to what journalists at the Lancashire Telegraph have to say and that the values and integrity that have served the paper so well over its 128 year history are preserved.  All the best. Will Straw, Parliamentary Candidate for the Labour Party

Can I pass on my message of support and solidarity to striking Newsquest workers as a former Newsquester (and former group joint deputy FoC) Will Lodge

My support for your action is total. A vibrant free local press is vital for our democracy.
Good luck today & I hope you are listened to by your publishers. Tony, Labour Leader Croydon

All the best to you and the staff at the Guardian. Ben McArdle, GMB Workplace Organiser and NUJ member

Tim Dawson with NQ strikers
Tim Dawson, NUJ vice-president with Newsquest strikers
© Private

Strikers in Twickenham © Private

I regret that I cannot be in Croydon today, due to other pressing engagements. However you and your colleagues, have the support of both my fellow Councillors and myself, in your efforts to keep this very popular paper alive. We wish both you and your Colleagues all the very best, and we are in total Solidarity in your 'fight' for extra staff and better working conditions with the Croydon Guardian, and all the other Guardian newspapers. Cllr Pat Ryan, Labour Councillor for Upper Norwood Ward ( Chief Whip Croydon Labour Group)

Sending a message of  to solidarity all NUJ brothers and sisters taking action today. Jamie Briers Equity North West Regional Organiser.

I have seen that the Elmbridge Guardian is to close. The newspaper will be very much missed, it provides excellent local coverage and as both residents and local Councillors we value it very much. If you could reconsider this decision that would be very much appreciated. Additionally the website is brilliant and that too would be a great loss for us if it closed. Christine Elmer, local resident and councillor Elmbridge borough council.

The message from Twickenham: The Richmond and Twickenham Times has been based in the borough for 141 years. Taking it out of the community it serves and forcing its editorial team to cover local news from a tower block in Sutton is misguided and wrong. 

I was pretty disgusted by the treatment of journalists at Croydon Guardian. I heard about it via a friend's post on Facebook. Both my children deliver the local paper and they receive so much appreciation from folk in the neighbourhood for delivering it, and are often stopped by passers by asking for copies. There is clearly a need and a love for this local paper. People want to know what's happening on their doorstep and often can't afford the Advertiser, so this free newspaper fills the gap. I'm really horrified by how pressurised you are being made to feel and the conditions of work are appalling. Do our MP's know? I can only give my support and you have my full permission to add this email to your campaign. Just so sorry you've had to deal with such rough treatment. Wishing you every success with your protest.  Andrea Tay

Tags: , newsquest, strike, blackburn, sutton, local newspapers, subbing hub, cuts, north west, picket