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Strikes and ballots as thousands fight cuts

23 February 2009

Journalists across Britain and Ireland are this stepping up the battle against redundancies, with hundreds of NUJ members taking industrial action and thousands being balloted to join in.

Ballot papers are being sent to the NUJ's nearly 4,000 members at the BBC after the corporation announced compulsory redundancies in Scotland. Journalists at neighbouring Shropshire Newspapers and Staffordshire Newspapers have backed industrial action over cutbacks by big margins in secret ballots.

NUJ members at Yorkshire Post Newspapers returned to work together this morning after four days of strike action over compulsory redundancies.

They will walk out again on Thursday when they will be joined by journalists at the BBC South Asian service who are outraged by plans to outsourcing their jobs overseas. The plans will mean worse working conditions and news produced under local censorship laws.

Journalists fighting redundancies at Newsquest York have given notice of possible industrial action every weekday until the end of March. Ballots for industrial action over cuts are underway at the Derry Journal in Northern Ireland, the Independent and Independent on Sunday in London and the Surrey-based Reed Business Information magazine group.

NUJ members in the Republic of Ireland took part in Saturday's massive march against the Irish government's economic policies.

The latest ballot results showed big majorities for action in Shropshire and Staffordshire. At Burton-on-Trent-based Staffordshire Newspapers, 93 percent voted for industrial action – with 80 percent backing strike action.

The Ilife-owned company said, during the ballot, that it would not press ahead with compulsory redundancies. However, journalists are concerned about the closure of district office in Sawdlincote, Leek and Uttoxeter.

The NUJ chapel has given the company notice of union meetings to be held at 8.30am on 3 and 4 of March if nothing is resolved by negotiation before then.

At Telford-based Shropshire Newspapers, 83 percent voted for industrial action – with 59 percent backing the possibility of a strike.

The Midland News Association company announced 12 compulsory redundancies including trainee reporters. Under UK law, the chapel has until mid-March to take action without balloting again, if negotiations achieve nothing.

The BBC-wide ballot over Scotland has been called to support the union's long-standing policy of resisting compulsory redundancies across the corporation.

In a letter to BBC members, Paul McLaughlin, the NUJ's Broadcasting Organiser, said:

"At a time when an organisation with the scale of the BBC has guaranteed additional funding, there is no excuse for the compulsory redundancies among programme-makers."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, said:

"NUJ members are not just fighting to save jobs they are standing up for journalism – and the right of people across the UK and Ireland to be properly informed about the society we live in.
"Standing on the picket line in Leeds last week, it was obvious from the support of local people that they value the role the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post play in their communities.
"The same is true in Staffordshire, Shropshire, Scotland and all the other places where we are defending jobs and journalism.
"I urge all the journalists who are taking part in ballots for industrial action to vote 'yes' so we can keep up the momentum of the campaign against cutbacks."

The strikers in Leeds have produced videos from the picketlines and a blog.

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