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Yorkshire Post Newspapers journalists ballot over redundancies

21 January 2009

Journalists in Leeds are to be balloted on strike action after Johnston Press announced three compulsory redundancies and called for fifteen more volunteers to leave the company. The cuts affect the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post.

In a statement to members, the NUJ joint chapel committee said that departments excluded from this round of redundancies "should be as committed to this struggle as those immediately affected, because your turn will come."

The union staged a lunchtime protest earlier this month against the running down of the two papers.

Today's proposals from the company would mean three photographers being made compulsorily redundant after being judged against written criteria. Management is also seeking six job cuts from Yorkshire Post editorial, six from Yorkshire Evening Post editorial and three picture technicians who serve both papers.

The company budgeted last year for 184 jobs in editorial. According to the editors, that number was reduced by 20 through a combination of non-replacement and voluntary redundancy. One photographer has just retired and another volunteered for redundancy.

In total another 20 jobs are going this year, reducing the joint editorial workforce to 144.

The joint chapel statement says:

The new round of job losses are not genuine redundancies within the definition of the term. Redundancy occurs when there is no longer any work for a person to do. In our case the work is still there.

The company simply wishes to save the wages of some of the people doing it, and pass their workload on to colleagues who are left.

We believe that, if unchallenged, this is just the start of the reduction in the YP/YEP editorial workforce. The company has also indicated that it may introduce centralised subbing, with implications for further job losses.

The chapel, which meets tomorrow, has a long-standing policy of balloting for strike action if any member is threatened with compulsory redundancy. They want to improve any settlement terms, and stop the compulsory element of the job losses.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern Organiser, said:

"The chapel is determined to oppose the obscenity of one colleague being pitched against another to keep in a job. Our members are also disturbed at the company's desire to put profit margins ahead of the need to invest in a downturn to keep quality in its newspapers to keep readers and advertisers there when things pick up.
"This announcement is just crudely hacking a lump out of the editorial workforce with no vision for the future. Given the economic circumstances, the chapel would work with management to reduce costs but this cannot mean good journalists being forced out of their jobs."

Pete Lazenby, NUJ father of the Yorkshire Evening Post chapel, said:

"These redundancies are not about work drying up. They are about money. The company wants to do the same work with fewer staff and save 18 wages. That's all there is to it.
"Johnston Press is still making hefty profits, but is in a mess because it overstretched itself by buying so many other companies. It paid out hundreds of millions to shareholders while borrowing hundreds of millions to expand. It now has debts of £465m and yet is valued according to share price at less than £80m. We didn't create this mess. The management did, yet we are expected to pay for their mistakes.
"We are balloting on strike action for two reasons: to remove the compulsory element of the job losses, and for a better deal for anyone who chooses to go.
"We believe these job cuts are the first of many more planned by the company. They are looking at introducing a centralised subbing system later, which will mean more job losses.
"The company has admitted that the cuts will lower the quality of our papers, but they do not seem to care.
"We are determined to fight to defend our jobs and our papers and we hope there will be an overwhelming vote for strike action. We will be asking for support from fellow trades unionists, our readers, advertisers, and politicians locally and nationally."

Yorkshire Post Newspapers is the biggest section of the northern division of Johnston Press. The division is responsible for making 40 per cent of Johnston Press's profits.

Tags: , johnston press, ballot, newspapers, cuts, redundancies, yorkshire evening post, yorkshire post, photographers