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Strikers ‘overwhelmed’ by local support in North-east

19 February 2014

Newsquest journalists were "overwhelmed" by the level of public support for a 24-hour strike yesterday to defend local newspapers against plans by their US-owned publisher to shift production of papers to a so-called super-hub in Wales, 270 miles away.

The journalists held one-day strikes at Darlington, York and Bradford on Tuesday (18 February) to fight for local production of local newspapers and to defend the jobs of 25 colleagues who have been told to move to Wales … or else.

Newspapers affected include the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Northern Echo and The Press in York. There are 10 jobs at risk in Bradford, five in York and 10 in Darlington.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, who was on the picket line at Darlington,said:

"The concern of local readers to have their newspapers produced locally was inspiring. After marching through the town centre we handed out lots of leaflets. Countless shoppers and passers-by took time out to stand and talk about the situation facing journalists here and in York and Bradford.
"The clear message from readers was that Newsquest management is out of touch – readers want their local newspaper to be just that, a vibrant source of relevant news, information and entertainment, produced by journalists who are part of the local community and passionate about giving it a voice. It's high time Newsquest executives listened to their staff and to their readers.
"While this is a fight for jobs, it is also a vital struggle to defend an important quality of British newspapers: local papers must be relevant to the readership they seek to serve. You can't do that from a production centre nearly three hundred miles away."

See photographs fom the day

The picket line at The Press

Watch the Darlington strike video

In York, NUJ pickets distributed leaflets explaining the strike to nearly a thousand people. City of York council leader James Alexander pledged his support and that of his colleagues for the journalists' cause. York Central MP Hugh Bayley was in Brussels yesterday, but his office staff brought tea and biscuits to cheer the strikers, who were also supported by local trade unions.

Jane Kennedy, NUJ Northern and Midlands assistant organiser, said:

"We had such tremendous support from locals, who all wanted to support their local newspaper staff. The nearby café brought us cups of tea and James Alexander, leader of York council, joined us on the picket line. This is sending a very strong message to Newsquest management that local people want their local paper to be produced by local journalists. It has been a very positive day in terms of getting support for our aims and people understood why we were forced to take strike action."

Tony Kelly and Mark Stead, joint Fathers of chapel at York, said:

"We are immensely proud of the NUJ York chapel and those in Bradford and Darlington for the way they have stood up for their friends, their colleagues, their paper and for quality journalism today. They have refused to allow their resolve to weaken in the face of threats from Newsquest management and have shown character, intelligence, warmth, strength and dignity in campaigning for the future of their newspaper - York's newspaper.
"Our message has been received and supported by the public, who know the human cost of these plans and the cost to their local paper. We hope it will reach the point where Newsquest simply has to listen, realise the damage these ineffectual and inefficient proposals will inflict on proud local newspapers and work with its staff and the NUJ to find a resolution to this dispute.
"We love journalism, we love our paper and we love our city. That is why we took a stand today and why that stand will continue."

At Bradford, a bouquet of leeks were delivered to Perry Austin Clarke, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus editor-in- chief, representing the 10 jobs going to Wales. City council leader David Green agreed to meet the NUJ to discuss the situation. He visited the picket line and spent some time listening to strikers. A local Green councillor agreed to seek to get a motion passed in council against the cuts.

Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser, said:

"The reaction of local people to the company's plan was one of horror. A woman drove up to the picket line at 7.30 to say she had heard it on the radio and wanted to tell us how appalled she was. Another man took a leaflet and then returned having read it to say how angry he was and that he would definitely write to the editor.
"This was a decisive strike against an uncaring and provocative Newsquest management. Members stepped forward together to ignore management threats and intimidation. This confirms all three chapels can deliver highly effective action in a united and controlled way. This is the stuff of nightmares for the company, so now is the time they should consider revising their disastrous plans for the superhub."

Laura Davison, national organiser, also on the picket line in Bradford, said:

"It's been brilliant to see Bradford people hooting their hearts out in support of NUJ members striking today. It's clear readers buy titles because they are part of their local community and that's where they want them to stay. Newsquest should press pause on their unsustainable cost cutting plans and keep quality journalism local."

Tags: , newsquest, strike, darlington, york, bradford, newspapers, regional newspapers