Sir Alan Ayckbourn sends support to Yorkshire journalists
13 February 2009
Sir Alan Ayckbourn, the Scarborough-based playwright, has sent his support to Yorkshire journalists who are due to strike next week over job cuts. The author of more than fifty plays says he is "appalled" by news of redundancies at the Yorkshire Post.
NUJ members at the Post and the Yorkshire Evening Post are to stage two four-day strikes to protest at the cutbacks.
Sir Alan said in an email:
The press office here at the Stephen Joseph Theatre has just told me about the Yorkshire Post job losses.
I am appalled if this means, as I'm sure it will do, that the quality of such a valued, independent, individual press voice will be in any way diminished.
We' regionalists' (and you know how closely I associate myself with this proud non-London based body of individualists!) regard the YP most highly. It is our own. It IS the voice of Yorkshire.
Long may it flourish!
The Johnston Press-owned Post and Evening Post will be hit by strike action from Thursday, 19 February, to Sunday, 23 February, and again from Thursday, 26 February, to Sunday, 1 March.
Journalists voted for strike action in a secret ballot by 109 votes to three – 97.3 per cent in favour of action, and one of the largest margins in the union's history.
Strike action will involve 141 members of the NUJ, mainly in Leeds, but also affecting offices in Hull, Sheffield, Bradford, Wakefield, London, Harrogate, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, Scarborough, and Northallerton.
Johnston Press is seeking 18 editorial redundancies.
Peter Lazenby, one of two joint fathers of chapel at the papers said:
"Johnston Press is the newspaper equivalent of HBOS and Northern Rock. The company's debts are now ten times the size of its share value.
"This situation exists because management handed out hundreds of millions of pounds in bonuses and dividends to directors and shareholders while at the same time borrowing hundreds of millions of pounds for an over-ambitious acquisition programme.
"Its chief executive Tim Bowdler pocketed millions in bonuses, pay and pension despite overseeing this appalling financial situation.
"The company is now demanding that we pay for its mismanagement with our jobs.
"The ballot result is indicative of the strength of feeling at our papers. We hope it sends a message to management. We hope it will also encourage other Johnston Press offices to take action.
"But this isn't just about jobs. It is about the quality of our newspapers. Standards are falling because of continual cuts in budgets and staffing levels. Our papers are suffering a spiral of falling circulations, more cuts, more lost readers.
"We are proud of our papers – some of us have worked for our publications for decades, serving our communities and spearheading campaigns. We are appealing to our readers for support."
The journalists are planning rallies outside the papers' Leeds headquarters from 4pm on the weekdays of the strikes.
NUJ members working at Johnston Press in Derry are also balloting for industrial action over job cuts as are hundreds of journalists at other companies.