Friday, 27 May 2011
THE AXE DROPS // BORIS JOHNSON OFFERS HIS SUPPORT
This time, MD Roger Mills decided to make the whole of our sports and leisure team redundant, one news editor out of the two we have left, one web designer out of two, and one commercial features writer/sub editor - eight journalists in total.
The announcement came despite the fact that the editorial department devised a revenue-generating idea, which could potentially earn Newsquest at least £1.4 million a year nationally.
The idea was presented to Newsquest London and national bosses last week, with the intention of generating money and saving our jobs, and will be put into practice from Tuesday (sales staff have already been trained to do it), as they accepted it works and may be extremely profitable.
So they have accepted the new idea, are putting it into practice, but have refused to give us any time to find out whether it works and may help save our jobs.
This week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson came out in support of our newspapers.
He said: "As someone who has been involved in journalism for all of his professional life, I think what local papers do is absolutely crucial in keeping local people informed about developments in life and their area.
"Most people get their information from local papers and I hope whatever Newsquest are doing, and I wouldn't like to second guess their reasons for it, but I hope it will not affect the excellent coverage of news provided across the series."
News reporters will be required to take on sports and leisure, but the NUJ chapel has already made clear we will not accept any extra workload.
Mr Mills is clearly dismantling our newspapers in London, apparently to make savings of £210k by the end of June. From what I have been told in meetings with senior management, Newsquest operates with quarterly targets, which regional MDs must meet, and which is an incredibly short-sighted way of conducting a business in our chapel's opinion.
The NUJ has long claimed that all profits made by Newsquest nationally are passed on to our parent company in America, Gannett and the ever increasing demand for higher profits by their shareholders makes it impossible for Newsquest to continue delivering a meaningful service in the local newspaper industry.
Proof of it is the fact that our editorial space continues to shrink, our staff is being made redundant and our newspapers are soon to be turned into advertising leaflets with the odd news story crammed in.
Our much-loved titles (Croydon Guardian, Richmond and Twickenham Times, Surrey Comet, Kingston Guardian, Epsom Guardian, Sutton Guardian, Wandsworth Guardian, Wimbledon Guardian and Streatham Guardian) will not be able to hold councils to account, cover meaningful and relevant stories, carry out investigations, cover court cases, crime, education and other areas - we will not be able to provide the service good local newspapers are expected to deliver.
Moreover, graduates fresh out of journalism courses or NCTJ training will be at risk of missing out on the excellent training still provided in local newsrooms, a true stepping stone for news reporters aspiring to get a steady foundation in this industry.
Our strike ballot's result will be announced on Tuesday, May 31, and I will update you as soon as I get it.
Members of the NUJ across Newsquest's south London titles have been working to rule since April 15. They voted in favour of industrial action after management failed to reach an agreement with the union on four issues.
Following an announcement that editorial space would be drastically reduced from February this year, members of the union feared for the jobs of reporters across all sections, news editors and sub editors.
The union sought guarantees from management that there would be no redundancies and that editorial space would be increased.
Members also demanded the 2pc pay rise due in April, after Newsquest lifted its three-year long pay freeze nationally.
The fourth issue related to moving offices from North Cheam to Sutton. Many members of staff saw their train fares increase by up to 30pc, but have been denied financial support from the company to cope with the change for a period of time after the move.
Union members offered Newsquest an extra hour of work per day to run alongside the work to rule, to show their commitment to producing high-quality newspapers, but managing director Roger Mills has not yet replied to the offer.
The union has also offered to take the dispute to ACAS, but again, Mr Mills failed to respond to this date.
Four journalists who have either left or taken voluntary redundancy will not be replaced and more redundancies have just been announced.
We have a total of 38 journalists working across two offices - Sutton and Twickenham.