Newsquest journalists in south London have voted for a further five days of strike action over a newsroom restructure that will result in 12 reporters covering news, sport and leisure across 11 newspapers and eight websites under a single content editor.
Seven reporters have resigned over the plans.
The decision was made at a chapel meeting on the picket line on the third day of industrial action at Newsquest south's headquarters in Sutton. Newsquest has failed to answer the concerns of its staff, saying it has ended its consultation without meeting reporters and sub-editors whose roles are due to change radically.The present strike action will recommence on Monday 24 October 2016 at 00:01hrs until 23:59hrs on Friday 28 October 2016.The work to rule will remain in place.
NUJ representatives were repeatedly stonewalled by managers who failed to explain how their plan will work in practice. Talks at ACAS, the arbitration service have already stalled.
The chapel said it had put forward a number of suggestions for more reasonable newsroom structures but was rebuffed at every turn. The company's new structure is due to begin next Monday, but it has alienated so many members of staff, who have now resigned, that it will only have nine reporters available. Its sports team, its leisure editor and three news editors will leave this Friday.
A chapel spokesperson said:
"Our centre's annual cost has dropped by about £380,000 since March, because departing journalists have not been replaced and photographic coverage has been slashed. On top of that, Newsquest wants to save more than £250,000, and has simply refused to negotiate.
"Our strike continues and our resolve is undiminished. All we want is to report the news and celebrate our communities. We totally reject Newsquest's plan for reduced coverage and generic content that will rob local communities with the news and features relevant to where they live. By reducing the quality of the newspapers and websites, how can we build up circulation and be a viable prospect for advertisers?"
Simon Hogg, Labour group leader of Wandsworth council said, in a letter to Henry Faure Walker, Newsquest CEO:
"Your staff are your biggest assets. Journalism still attracts bright, ambitious young people. As a local councilor I’ve met some tough and brilliant Wandsworth Guardian reporters: Sophia Sleigh didn’t blink when dealing with gang members in Battersea; Alexandra Rucki came up to the 10th storey of a tower-block with no lift; and I’ve seen Rebecca Taylor sit through hours of a late-night Town Hall committee just to get one sentence of a story. I urge you to join urgent negotiations with National Union of Journalist representatives to save these local jobs and our community’s news."
Tony Arbour, chairman of the London Assembly, said: "This proposal undermines democracy in South West London and the credibility of Newsquest titles." John McDonnell MP and shadow chancellor, said: "You have my 100 per cent support in the action you are taking to protect jobs and in this way protect quality journalism."
Their messages of support were echoed by readers, fellow journalists, community campaigners and local MPs including Chris Grayling. Latest messages of support and donation pledges.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"The determination of our members and the solidarity support they've received is brilliant. The fight for quality local journalism is one which unites community groups, campaigners and politicians across the spectrum. The message is spreading that Newsquest South London is failing in its democratic function and deliberately running down the very titles it is supposed to steward. When you have gaping holes where whole boroughs are not covered by any dedicated reporters it's more than time for urgent action from the top."
Newsquest owns newspapers and websites including the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.
These latest cuts follow:
the closure of the Richmond & Twickenham Times/Surrey Comet office in June 2014
the cutting of the commercial features team in December 2014the cutting of group editors, news editors, chief reporters and sub-editors, and the closure of the News Shopper office, in August 2015
the cutting of four more subs in February 2016
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