Swindon Newsquest strike: day two
Day two and the picket line going strong - © nuj
Striking over poverty pay - © nuj
3 January 2018
Some of the placards were slightly battered by Storm Eleanor and a little on the soggy side, but spirits remained high outside the Swindon Advertiser on day two of the Newsquest strike.
As messages of solidarity poured in to @AdverStrike, NUJ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, led the plaudits, saying:
“Well done Swindon Advertiser journalists for taking a stand to support quality journalism. It is a terrible shame that you have been forced to go on strike out of frustration of not being listened to by management which has refused to pay you properly, which has sacked many of your colleagues leaving you with crippling workloads.
"Despite the rain and the wind you have come out to tell your readers about the poverty wages you receive and your passion for good, local journalism.”
The office sign, which reads the Swindo Advertiser, is a graphic illustration of the proprietor’s lack of care and pride for the reporters and journalism under its roof; the missing ‘n’ a sad sign of neglect.
Colleagues from Oxford, Wiltshire and further afield visited the strikers and local MP, Robert Buckland, called by for an update on the situation. So did Jim Grant, leader of the Labour group on Swindon council, who pledged his support and agreed the journalists were getting a raw deal. On day one, the picket line won support from Stan Pajak, LibDem group leader, and Labour councillor, Jim Robbins.
The strike had been called to protest against poverty wages – the journalists have had only two pay rises in the past nine years – and excessive workloads. Five jobs have gone from Swindon and two from Trowbridge, including a photographer, in the latest round of cuts. In the past year the sports desk has gone from six staff to four.
Bruno Clements, former Father of Chapel of Swindon NUJ, lost his job on December 31, so starts 2018 out of work. He was the Advertiser’s social media and web editor and an experienced, respected journalist who would be an asset in any newsroom; but Newsquest dispensed of his services. He said:
“House prices and rents in Swindon are rising fast, but journalists on the Advertiser have seen their wages stagnate. We started pay talks in 2016, but at every meeting we are told Newsquest has no money when we know the latest operating profits were £4m.
“Yes the print circulation is in decline but, compared with other parts of the country we are doing well, and our digital presence is one of the highest in the group. Newsquest continues to chase profits for the parent company, Gannett, in America, but the only way they can do it is to make cuts. This is ultimately having an effect on the quality of the newspapers and websites.”
The young reporters on the picket line are concerned. They are already overloaded with work and worry that, with no subeditors, mistakes will not be spotted and they will not have time to craft witty and arresting headlines as well as go out and find the stories and write them. A huge wealth of experience has been shown the door.
Paul Wilenius joins the picket line
Paul Wilenius, who worked on the Advertiser and went to become a politcal journalist on the BBC's Today programme, came along to show support. Tim Lezard, the union’s national executive council member for the region, praised the Swindon Advertiser journalists and added: “I’ve worked in journalism for 30 years and where I live there used to be seven reporters in the local paper office; now there isn’t an office. It’s a car park. It’s heart-breaking to see local communities let down by editors. There’s life in local journalism while there are people willing to fight for it.” Tim Dawson, NUJ president, said: “Never has the case for quality local news seemed stronger – and yet Newsquest continues to pile on cuts and threaten working conditions. Well done to the NUJ chapel in Swindon for taking this on and showing that, when it really matters, it is journalists themselves who are the best defenders of journalism.”
The Guardian/Observer branch has agreed a donation to the strike fund of £500, after passing the following motion: "Guardian/Observer branch sends its support to NUJ members at the Newsquest title the Swindon Advertiser, who are on strike for two days this week over poor pay and conditions. This branch believes such conditions can only contribute to the running-down of local journalism and local democracy itself. This branch therefore agrees to make a donation of £500 to their strike fund to alleviate hardship experienced as a result of their action."
Donations for the strike fund can be sent to:
Unity Trust Bank
Account name: NUJ Wiltshire Branch
Account number: 35016904
Bank sort code: 608301