NUJ newspaper journalists on strike in Cumbria
Out on the picket line early this morning in Workington - © NUJ
20 December 2018
As NUJ members walked out on strike today, Thursday 20 December, they have received remarkable cross-party political support and a loud and public appreciation of their work and local quality journalism in Cumbria.
Pickets started just after 7am in Workington and Carlisle today, and NUJ organiser Andy Smith was interviewed live on Sky News TV.
The newspapers affected by the strike are the Carlisle News and Star, the Cumberland News, the Workington Times and Star and the Whitehaven News.
An NUJ Newsquest chapel spokesperson said:
"Newsquest appears to have a business model based primarily on cost-cutting. Over the last year, the effect of this in our Cumbrian newsrooms has been dramatic. It has driven away most of our most experienced local journalists, whose professionalism and local standing has benefited the company - and our community - enormously. Collectively, their departure represents a catastrophic loss of experience and knowledge.
"The NUJ in Cumbria believes they - along with colleagues in other more commercial departments - are the primary asset of Newsquest's Cumbrian business. It is therefore illogical for Newquest, whilst prepared to invest in technology, to freeze the pay of its journalists indefinitely, as appears to be the case.
"If this continues, our newsrooms are likely in the future to be populated almost exclusively by junior, inexperienced, and transient reporters, destined to move on quickly because they can not afford to remain in a job where low pay rates confirm that they are not valued. This will diminish regional journalism. It will also be a huge blow for our community, which has traditionally looked to our journalists for quality journalism. Depressingly, without evidence to the contrary, it appears that Newsquest values neither its journalists nor journalism. We hope the company will demonstrate, through positive action on our pay claim, that this is not the case."
Jane Kennedy, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said:
"We’ve had a great turnout on the picket lines this morning, people really do care about local journalism because news is a public service, people need to know what is going on in their communities and we all need local, accurate and timely information. Newsquest are making severe cuts again and again; they are slashing front line journalism, jobs and paying out thousands in perks to those at the top of company. Newsquest are systematically asset stripping local journalism in this country and they must be stopped."
Another Cumbria Newquest NUJ rep said:
"Newsquest's takeover has aggravated what was already an inadequate situation. Stress levels have been high and pay has been low for journalists in West Cumbria for too long. Since taking control of newspapers in the area, job cuts, imposed by the company, have led to decades of experience walking out of the newsroom, without ample replacements. This has piled pressure on remaining staff members, causing stress levels to soar to the point staff have been signed off work.
"Dedicated journalists are left with an appalling choice, work dangerously long hours or watch as the quality declines. Removing valuable sub-editors means reporters are expected to write, sub, provide constant online content, including video, and much more. The remaining photographers are covering huge areas, with extra responsibilities, without seeing any increase in pay.
"Union members have tried to work with their bosses to find solutions but constantly come up against a brick wall. Worst of all, Newsquest is not willing to listen. NUJ representatives are regularly ignored and staff members are left feeling unappreciated.
"The pay increases asked for are minimal, especially when compared to the money made by Newsquest's top bosses. They obviously feel editorial staff, who keep the company running on a daily basis through hard work in difficult circumstances, aren't worth investing in."
Journalists working for Newsquest Cumbria who are taking strike action said:
"We have a duty to our readers to provide the highest quality of content. I believe in local newspapers and the important role they play, but the current under-investment means that standards are lowering and I am at risk of making myself sick to still provide what my readers deserve."
"Being a journalist requires lots of skills and knowledge. Working for a local newspaper you go from reporting on the latest developments of the Moorside nuclear power plant, to campaigning to retain maternity services at the West Cumberland Hospital, to championing our local talent. If our experienced journalists are forced to walk away from a job that hardly pays the bills, who will hold the Government and the local authority to account? It’s thanks to our knowledge, contacts and skills that we are able to tell people how the care home where their loved ones live is performing, how their children’s school is coping with diminishing funds and we also champion the fundraisers, the performers and we tell the stories of our friends and neighbours. We are the eyes and ears of the community. I’m worried that my newspaper will become pages for advertising to be placed."
"When I got into journalism I knew this wasn’t a highly paid job, but I expected the be able to have a reasonable standard of living. Most of us can barely afford to maintain a car or leave the family home. Most of us either have a car or live independently, how can we continue like this?"
"The ongoing battle to receive fair pay for the work I do is causing me to become incredibly angry to the point I don’t think I should be working with other people, particularly members of the public. This constant devaluation is causing me considerable distress. I was taken on to work for a weekly, yet I now work provide content for two weekly papers, a daily one, websites and anything else they can squeeze out of me - I have never had a pay rise to compensate the extra work. Knowing that I’m being used is leaving me feeling crushed at the end of each day."
Local politicians have expressed support for local, quality, sustainable journalism:
Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, said:
"Strong, vigorous local newspapers are a vital part of local democracy. Journalism is extraordinarily important. We will only keep it alive if we reward journalists properly."
Tim Farron, former Lib Dem leader and MP for South Lakeland, said:
"Our local reporters here in Cumbria aren't just writing about our communities, they are part of those communities - they are the glue that keeps our community together. That's the key to a good local newspaper. We are lucky to have so many excellent journalists writing for fantastic papers and they deserve to be fairly rewarded for the work that they do."
Labour leader of Cumbria County Council and local Councillor, Stewart Young, said:
"Skilled and experienced local journalists are a key part of our democratic structures. Whilst I'll be the first to say they don't always make our lives easy, I'll clarify that by saying nor should they. They disseminate information to the public, organise campaigns, and in the finest examples of work they hold organisations like ours up to public scrutiny. To lose such a crucial link, is a major loss for us all. That is why I support this industrial action taken here today."
Helen Davison, Carlisle Green Party chair, said:
"Totally support the strike today. What Newsquest is doing is just wrong. They are just not listening. Local journalism is really important for reporting real news as it happens and highlighting important issues."
Messages of support for the strike:
Labour leader of Carlisle City Council Colin Glover, said:
"I am deeply concerned to see the damaging actions of Newsquest, which has led to the strike action by NUJ members. The Cumberland News Group was built up over three generations and it is heart-breaking to see Newquest dismantling the company, piece by piece and more importantly, their total disregard of employee welfare. I am shocked enough to hear that staff have had no pay rise for eight years, but to hear that Newsquest do not even appear to care about the welfare and wellbeing of their employees cannot be left unchallenged.
Whilst there will always be staff turnover as people move on to new opportunities, I am shocked to have observed the large numbers of long-serving and committed staff who have felt they have no future at Newsquest in Cumbria and have departed, often leaving the industry altogether. Some had no choice in the matter and others had just given up hope. This is a sad indictment on Newsquest’s attitude. I am sure that those who remain will be suffering significant stress and this can only lead to the situation deteriorating further.
I met senior Newsquest representatives when they first took over and whilst we all knew that change by the new owners was likely, I was given assurances that there would be investment in people and products. I stressed the importance of the company as a 'window on the world' for Carlisle and for Cumbria. Good quality local journalism is important for local democracy and this plays a part in making Carlisle the vibrant place that it is.
Newsquest must get round the table with staff representatives to resolve these concerns in order to keep the promises that they made to me. I would also call on them to meet me again and explain why they broke their promises and what they are going to do to put it right.
Please pass on my best wishes to your colleagues and assure them that you all have my support. Anyone who knows me will understand how much the City of Carlisle and its people mean to me. When some of our people come under attack, such as the shameful way Newsquest is treating its workforce, then we must all stand together, to defend our people, to defend the future of our city.
I may not always like what is printed, but I will always respect the professionalism and dedication that local Newsquest staff show and for that I thank you all."
John McDonnell MP and shadow chancellor of the exchequer said:
"I completely support the NUJ strike today – Newsquest should listen to and invest properly in their workforce. No worker should ever be undervalued in this way."
Eric Martlew, former local MP and Carlisle Labour trade union liaison officer said:
"Good luck today. There is no doubt that the quality of the paper is going downhill because of the lack of reporters."
"Totally support the strike today. What Newsquest is doing is just wrong. They just not listening.
Local journalism is really important for reporting real news's as it happens and highlighting important issues."
Helen Davison, Carlisle Green Party chair
"All journalists involved have my support."
Neil Hughes, Liberal Democrat Cumbria County Councillor
"We are in the process of losing a really valuable newspaper. The changes since March have been apparent. We can’t have good local content when you sack more than 100 people. I am fully behind the journalists not only fighting for their jobs but local democracy."
Elsie Martlew, chair of Carlisle constituency Labour Party
"I fully understand the reasons for the strike action being taken by NUJ in Carlisle and West Cumberland on Thursday 20 December, and the striking journalists have my full support."
Michael Heaslip, Councillor for Workington St Johns
"Just sending a message of solidarity to you and the team of journalists with Cumbria newspapers. As a local politician I know we need to have good media. Local newspapers are essential in keeping the public up to date with local council policies and how it effects residents. I don't always agree with the reporter's views. But that is part of the democratic process - so sorry to hear of how your jobs have been decimated I hope your employer will start to listen and agree to get round the table and talk. Good luck."
Councillor Anne Burns
"As a former news editor who saw the writing on the wall and walked after many years, I applaud the actions of my former colleagues and will be there tomorrow. I am now a city councillor and am urging my colleagues to join me. The situation is a travesty.
Councillor Sue Crawford
"Sorry l can’t come to the picket line to support you all, but good luck."
Councillor Anne Glendinning
"I don’t usually support strike action but in this case I do I believe what has happened and what is happening is deplorable."
Councillor Raymond Tinnion
"Thank you for all the work that you do for, and in our community. Your contribution is very important and very much appreciated. I support your actions wholeheartedly. Good luck with your action."
Councillor Joan Ellis
"I fully support you’re actions since they took over CN the local touch has disappeared."
Councillor John Kane
"I am happy to support the strike by journalists across Cumbria. Councillor’s across the county need to have a good working relationship with the local media to enable us to get information out which may be of benefit to our communities. This was always the case prior to the cut backs, it has been noticeable that the standard of reporting has understandably deteriorated given the redundancies. I wish you every success in your campaign."
Cumbria county councillor Mike Hawkins
"Since the takeover the news worthiness of the paper has declined 100 fold. It is more like a residents newsletter these days. I no longer have it delivered as the actual news is often two days out of date. I look more to the internet for up to date news coming from direct sources to keep me up-to-date and in the moment. Good luck with your strike and lets hope it will make a difference."
Pamela Birks, Carlisle city councillor
"I totally support the action being taken by journalists in Cumbria in their efforts to get management to listen to there grievances."
Councillor Cyril Weber
"Sorry I could not be there to support your cause. Local newspapers are the heart of our democracy and I would like to go on record with my support."
Councillor Alistair Norwood, Copeland council
"On behalf of Napo members I want to convey our support for our NUJ comrades who are taking industrial action against their employer today. The NUJ is absolutely right to challenge what is yet another example of the systemic attack on the profession by employers who believe that syndicated ‘headline news’ is all that is needed in a modern democracy. Investment in quality journalism is needed now, more than ever, so that society can call politicians, public figures and organisations to account. I hope that this action may help your employer to realise the advantages of meaningful engagement with its workforce."
Ian Lawrence, NAPO Union
"On behalf of the RMT I send solidarity greetings to all the journalists on the Carlisle News and Star, the Cumberland News, the Workington Times and Star and the Whitehaven News taking strike action today against Newsquest. It is disgusting that staff are being made redundant this week and the devastating effect of job losses on those remaining will cause further problems for the staff and the overall quality of the papers. It is clear to the RMT that Newsquest do not value their staff, who inevitably are the papers best asset. RMT calls on Newsquest to stop these cuts and invest in journalists and we salute all the members of the NUJ taking a stand for quality local journalism today. Solidarity and respect to you all. We wish you every success in the struggles ahead."
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary
"On behalf of the National Education Union, I send the journalists working for Newsquest owned newspapers in Carlisle, Whitehaven and Workington taking strike action today, a message of solidarity and support for their brave and robust stance against staff cuts and the lack of a pay rise since 2015. Please pass on our best wishes of support to the members and wish them success with their demands for Newsquest to invest in journalists and quality local journalism – because it is at the heart of a healthy democracy.
Quality journalism helps to keep people informed, combats fake news and holds powerful public figures and organisations to account.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union
"The BFAWU are proud to support NUJ comrades at Newsquest, Carlisle, Whitehaven and Workington in their fight to protect jobs, terms and conditions. Only the very worst employers behave in this manner and we will stand with these brave strikers in their quest for justice. Solidarity."
Ronnie Draper, general secretary, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
"To all those taking strike action today on behalf of the BFAWU we send our best wishes and solidarity."
Ian Hodson, national president, Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union
"On behalf of the Prision Officers Association I am sending you a message of solidarity in your strike action against the employer who is treating journalists with contempt. No worker wants to go on strike but it appears this is the only option left to deal with this employer to safeguard your jobs and future. I wish you every success and hope for a speedy resolution to the dispute! Solidarity from the POA in your struggle."
Steve Gillan, POA general secretary
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We send our solidarity to our brothers and sisters in the NUJ taking strike action today at Newsquest. The slash and burn approach taken by Newsquest and other media corporations is destroying our local newspaper industry. Local newspapers are at the heart of our democracy and provide an important source of news and a way of holding local politicians to account. The PCS wishes you every success in your fight for jobs, fair pay and for vibrant local journalism."
"NUJ Bristol Branch sends our solidarity and support and congratulates you on your stand for quality, sustainable local journalism. We hope Newsquest will reverse these cuts and act to invest in the brilliant local journalism that is vital to the communities you serve."
Simon Chapman, NUJ Bristol branch secretary
"With all the social media and apps, I still wouldn’t give up buying my weekly Times and Star. Good luck with your action." Michael
Describing Newsquest's refusal to reward its Cumbrian staff with a pay rise, former Stobart Group chief executive, Andrew Tinkler said: "It doesn't make any sense. I have done well in my career because I recognise that it's about carrying people with me. If you don't have good people you don't get good results. That's my take on it. Journalists should be rewarded."
"Watching with interest and support you! As a former local newspaper journalist I understand your plight and hope you get through this successfully - it’s a worthy job for communities who need to know the truth about what’s happening close to home as well as in the wider world. All the best"
"Cumbria Police Federation have for many years worked in partnership with journalists and the media across the county. The last ten years of policing have been the most turbulent for decades... It has been extremely beneficial for us to have a critical reporting friend asking the questions and getting to the heart of what the public want and need to hear. The strong foundation of this multi agency approach has been the experience and expertise of the journalists involved knowing who and what to ask and at what stage of the respective proceedings. This experience CANNOT be underestimated.
We have seen and continue to experience first hand in the Police Service the catastrophic effects funding and resourcing cuts have had on the quality of service being provided across the country to the public. There is simply no substitute for experience, expertise and knowledge and beware!! Once it’s gone it’s gone... Value what you have, DO NOT take good will for granted and lose your experience at your peril."
Martin Plummer, chair of the Cumbria Police Federation
"Total support for your campaign to defend jobs, pay and the quality of local journalism! Solidarity!!"
"Just a quick message of support for you guys and the action you’re taking. I studied journalism at uni and I find the falling standards of local journalism due to low pay and low numbers of staff ridiculous and a serious threat to democracy in this country. I only wish some of the staff from the Newsquest titles we have here in Worcester would join you!"
"Solidarity with all the Newsquest journalists in Cumbria out on strike today!
Working for JPIM in Sheffield, we know only too well about Christmas Scrooge bosses who cut jobs and under-pay their hard-working staff.
A victory for your chapels will be a victory and inspiration for all of us. South Yorkshire NUJ branch will be sending a donation to the strike fund. Please let us know what else we can do to support you. I've also written to your boss, via the TUC Megaphone link."
Julia Armstrong, MoC, Sheffield newspapers chapel and chair, South Yorkshire NUJ branch
"I wish the NUJ and the striking journalists every success in winning this dispute. I regularly send press releases to the Cumberland News and its sister paper the News and Star on Unite Community actions, and it would be a great loss for us as well as the rest of the community if our local newspapers were to be closed or reduced to a high-volume, low-quality service, as Newsquest seems to want to do."
Robert Charlesworth, secretary of the Unite Community Cumbria branch
"Congratulations on having the bottle to show management how you feel by taking strike action. I was the MoC who led Barrow out on strike more than a decade ago and I know how hard you have to be pushed to take this action. I'm guessing Newsquest will be pretty nasty and intimidating and will be trying to pick you off one by one. We never regretted standing up to management and showing them that we were all together over pay and conditions. You are making an even more important stand - for standards of journalism, which have fallen visibly since Newsquest took over and not through the fault of the journalists. Local news should not be just a means for big business to make big profits. Good luck and stay strong."
Helen Wall, former MOC North West Evening Mail
"Just sending you good wishes and luck for your campaign. I work on the north Wales coast for the former NWN titles, we have had the redundancies too and are suffering with the constant cutbacks and high demand on remaining staff. Hopefully if we all join forces we can make a difference. Once again good luck."
Richard Pratt, the Archdeacon of West Cumberland, attended the picket line today (on the right) and also wrote to Newsquest boss Jonathan Lee and said: "Journalism is one of the most important and also the least valued and most dangerous professions in the world ... I hope that the company will reconsider its rejection of this year’s pay claim, and properly value its most important asset – the people who work for you and for us."
"All strength to you and your comrades in your strike action. Your pay cuts and low pay are an outrage - when I started in Fleet Street too many years ago the NUJ minimum was more or less what your seniors earn now. A strike, yes, and a boycott of the titles. Gannett Inc. is the modern-day equivalent of a 19th century mill owner. My solidarity to you!"
Journalist John Pilger
"I'd like to send my best wishes and support for the NUJ members at Cumbria Newspapers during their upcoming industrial action. Newsquest's continued cuts to its titles undermine local journalism and are depressingly short-sighted. Paying pittances to dedicated journalists who are having to endure increased workloads while ensuring the company's top bosses are handsomely rewarded demonstrates its managers are imbued with the true scrooge spirit. NUJ members at the Carlisle News and Star, the Cumberland News, the Workington Times and Star and the Whitehaven News deserve to be paid better for their hard work, and the people of Cumbria have the right to expect better from Newsquest, the custodian of their news titles."
Bob Smith, former Newsquest Group Chapel FoC and Newsquest Bradford Chapel FoC
"The Clare Champion chapel in Ireland would like to extend our support to you our union colleagues in the Carlisle News and Star, the Cumberland News, the Workington Times and Star and the Whitehaven News as you undertake your strike action today, just ahead of Christmas. We would also like to say that our thoughts are with members whose jobs are under threat days before Christmas, and urge you all to stay strong. We are stronger together. We extend our support to you all, and hope a resolution is reached so that staff can have a peaceful Christmas, and better conditions in the new year."
Carol Byrne MOC on behalf of the Clare Champion Chapel
"I support you all in this strike. We need your insight and professionalism. You need to be respected by your employer."
"The JPIMedia NUJ group chapel sends it congratulations and support to members working on Newsquest titles in Cumbria as they take action in defence of quality local journalism. We share their belief that the communities they live and work in need and deserve properly resourced teams of trained journalists to inform, educate, entertain and, most importantly, hold power to account. We urge Newsquest to urgently review its investment in its Cumbrian newsrooms, to ensure there are the staffing levels needed to produce quality newspapers, and to pay its journalists rates that properly reflect their valuable skills, knowledge and experience. In solidarity."
Georgina Morris, Joint MoC of the JPIMedia NUJ group chapel
"As a mother of a former employee who worked at the Whitehaven News, I wish to show my support to all workers who are striking. Over the past 2 years I been so dismayed at the amount of stress, anger, hurt and worry that my daughter has had to experience due to the work pressures since Newsquest took over. In her words, 'her dream job became her nightmare!' I can thoroughly sympathise with all the staff striking, and all their family/relatives who have stood by them when they were at their lowest."
"I wish to offer you my support in your Industrial action. The current climate in this country at the moment is so demanding and we have companies accross all sectors cutting pay reducing terms and conditions. We need to fight back, so best of luck in your action and I hope you achieve your goals." Colin Burns, Unite workplace health and safety rep, Interserve Sellafield
"Sending message of solidarity to NUJ colleagues at Carlisle, Whitehaven, and Workington, for your strike in support of standing up against low pay and redundancies."
Kevin Palmer, NUJ life member and chair of Derby and Burton branch
"I am passing on the support of North Lancashire and Westmorland NUJ branch for your action which is a determined one and shows your frustration at Newsquest. Media employees across so many businesses will understand at what you are enduring on pay, working hours and general lack of support."
David Barnes, chair, North Lancashire and Westmorland NUJ branch
"Good luck with the action today, keep going."
Noel Baker, deputy FOC at the Irish Examiner chapel
"Great stuff re IPSO - with you in spirit re the strike!"
Jane Mayes and Geoff Clapp
"Solidarity with all those on strike today from Manchester and Salford NUJ branch. We applaud the courageous stand you are taking against Newsquest and we are glad to see you have so much local support. Good luck!"
"Best of luck guys - let’s hope Newsquest realise their cuts are counter-productive."
"I'm writing to express my full support for the strike taking place by the staff at the Whitehaven News, Times and Star, and News and Star. As a former reporter of the Whitehaven News, who took voluntary redundancy in May because I was unhappy, I'm 100 per cent in support of the teams which are standing up and taking this industrial action."
"Support for all of you. Thinking of you and wishing you success. Would be standing with you if I wasn't at work."
"This has clearly been a buy out for profit. £3.6m spent for a pot of £5m. I make that a 1.4m profit if they get away with it. Good luck in your industrial action. I pray you unionists will prevail. Amen."
"All the very best for your strike action today. We condemn Newsquest's low pay and cuts to staffing and conditions, which are not only an attack on fellow trade unionists and journalists, but also on local democracy. Pay and conditions in the London magazine sector have also suffered badly over the past decade. We support you in taking industrial action to win not only improved pay and conditions, but also respect for trade unionists, and to stand up for quality journalism. Your action sends members in our sector and across the whole industry a message that it is possible to stand up to our employers and win salaries and conditions that value the work we do."
Caroline Price and branch officers, on behalf of the NUJ London Magazine Branch
Letters have been sent to company bosses and Jane Ruthven Mayes wrote to managing director Jonathan Lee and said:
"I’m sure you recognise the excellence of your newspapers and the important role they play in maintaining democratic accountability, particularly now when so many baseless and frankly dishonest stories are circulating in the unregulated press ie social media.
The fabric of society is crumbling before our eyes and it’s essential that there are news outlets that the public can trust, publications which follow the rules of impartiality and fact-checking.
Although the CN is in private hands, it performs a public role and Newsquest is just its temporary custodian. The newspaper is not, like many nationals, a mouthpiece for one political position or another but is a truly impartial tribune of the people whose role is to hold power to account. It is called the fourth estate for a reason - a free press is as essential to democracy as are parliament and an independent judiciary; it is not within the rights of the temporary owners to destroy it by starving it of funding.
CN has been a consistent prize-winner, with prize-winning writers, in the field of local newspapers; you have some top class journalists working for you (and working extremely hard - beyond the call of duty and above their paid hours) with countless years of experience of the region, of their specialities and of their profession in general, as well as talented youngsters learning their trade from them. Many of these people are of national standard and could have moved on to national dailies but have dedicated their working lives to CN newspapers and to the people of Cumbria. You are the custodians of this excellence and it is your responsibility to preserve it for the future and for democracy."
Helen Johnson wrote to Newsquest to say:
"I am writing to urge you to cease cutting journalists on your UK local news titles. I am a reader of the Northern Echo. I BUY THE NEWSPAPER - yes, I buy it in print, with a regular order, despite the fact that I view national and international new sites online.
I buy it because I care about local news, AND, I rely upon good quality local reporters to report national news without party political bias - something that national newspapers do not do.
However, as you lay off reporters, the quantity and quality of news reporting declines. The newspaper is becoming more of a billboard for press releases, and less of a curated NEWS paper.
I notice that you're now sacking journalists on Newsquests Cumbria titles, despite the fact that Gannet, the parent company of Newsquest, continues to make a profit, and continues to pay its senior directors salaries of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Reducing journalists reduces the quality of the newspaper, and accelerates the decline in quality which leads to loss of readers. Please, invest in the proper news reporting that makes the papers worth reading."
Gerard Sagar wrote to the company and said: "please listen and negotiate with your journalists... I don't know if you've ever been on strike but I can tell you it is always a last resort that staff are very reluctant to use. I am not from Cumbria but my local paper the Barnet Times is one of your papers and I know how hardworking the reporters and (one) sub are. You have benefited from the BBC Democracy money but are making journalists redundant at the same time. I have wondered how the BBC democracy financing is monitored and I am now going to find out and ask the appropriate body to audit the way Newsquest is using the money. I ask you to pause any proposed staff reductions and talk to your staff, and revoke and reverse cuts that have already been implemented at your papers in Cumbria since you acquired them... You can't produce a quality product without experienced, knowledgeable, committed staff who have enough time to do the job properly."
Anna Tims also wrote to Newsquest and said:
"I have read with distress but not surprise of the strike action planned this months by Newsquest journalists in Cumbria. My parents were employees of Newsquest (Surrey Comet) and I'm well aware of the hardship caused by the low pay, understaffing and sometimes ruthless employment practices.
Local newspapers are essential to democracy, community cohesion and to national media. I realise that declining advertising revenues and paid-for readership makes them a challenging business model. However, the breathtakingly high pay-off awarded to Robert J Dickey on his retirement suggests that money is not the issue - rather where and how it is deployed.
Staff shortages and sapped morale soon become apparent in the quality of the newspapers produced and as quality declines so does readership and respect.
I would urge Newsquest therefore to consider its priorities and its reputation and ensure that its local journalists are adequately supported in the vital work they do."
How you can help:
If you want to support local journalism, email Newsquest bosses using the TUC megaphone website.
Please donate to the NUJ hardship fund for the strikers.
You can send money to account name: NUJ Manchester
Account number: 20049274
Sort code: 60-83-01
Thanks from the NUJ chapel:
"We're incredibly grateful for all the support we received in the days leading up to the strike and on the picket line. It was not been easy for members to take this stand, but we got to the point where we were faced with the choice of either seeing our wonderful industry eroded by cuts and greed or stand up and fight for our rights and our readers. Our local newspapers are the life and soul of our communities and we understand that for certain people, groups or politicians it wasn't easy to decide to stand with their journalists. People come to us when they need us, when they want to raise an issue, highlight a problem or promote what they're doing, whether that be a fundraising appeal or a political achievement. Standing-up to the company that gives that platform can be perceived by some as shooting themselves in the foot, but we're glad those who stood with us recognised that it is the journalists that make the papers what they are and without their support, skills and hard work, local journalism would just be a platform for advertisers to sell their products.
"After yesterday's strike, members of all three chapels felt proud to have stood up to the money-makers and to have stuck together in this fight in the name of quality journalism and workers' rights. We know the fight isn't over, but we hope to have sent the company the clear message that we will not give up. A special thank you also goes to all officers and staff at the NUJ for supporting us in our fight and making our campaign a success."