NUJ appeals to Johnston Press shareholders at AGM
19 May 2016
Union representatives attended this year’s AGM to pose questions to the board about a number of key issues for NUJ members, including the overall company strategy and digital strategy, the BBC deal, staffing levels, stress and freelances.
NUJ representatives at the event also handed out a letter to AGM attendees and shareholders highlighting a range of concerns.
Key concerns raised at the event included: work-related stress and staffing levels; less than 1,000 editorial staff currently producing more than 450 publications and websites; and the company plans for further cost cutting this year.
As part of the question and answer session at the AGM, the NUJ proposed working collaboratively to alleviate the current stress levels crisis experienced by employees and this vital work could be started by using the Health and Safety Executive survey.
In reply, a commitment was given by the board that the matter would be an item on the agenda at its next meeting in the next few days and they emphasised they take the union’s proposal seriously and will discuss it. They also said that the company take the welfare of staff very seriously.
Quotes from NUJ members who had worked for Johnston Press were read out by NUJ representatives during the meeting:
"My workload tripled as soon as Newsroom of the Future came in, morale in the office fell dramatically and stress levels increased significantly. Covering areas I had never been to also didn't feel like journalism. I took a pay cut to leave but I have absolutely no doubt it was the right because my mental and physical health has to come first. I was stressed, miserable, disillusioned and losing my passion for journalism. This was not the case before Newsroom of the Future."
"The pressure I felt while working for Johnston Press, especially after the Newsroom of the Future was brought in, was unreal... My working life before Newsroom of the Future was stressful but there was a tangible reward for the effort then. You could see the better stories in the paper and the extra work was shown in the sales and web figures. But once Newsroom of the Future came in, seeing fruit for that extra effort ended. The same levels of effort were needed just to make sure the papers got out. That was so demoralising and the papers suffered as a result of the Newsroom of the Future. The saddest part of it all was that everyone just accepted that because of the amount of cuts and lack of staff. This was perhaps one of the main reasons as to why I left."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"We welcome the boards commitment and look forward to hearing the outcome of their discussions. Workplaces stress and staffing levels is the number one issue for our members in Johnston Press."