Two more NUJ journalists union chapels (workplace branches) on local newspapers have voted to ballot for strike action in a new campaign to end low pay. After victory in the first strike over pay for more than a decade at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus group, journalists at the Wakefield Express and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Evening Post have voted for strike ballots.
'If our chapel can do it, any chapel can,' Sarah Walsh, deputy 'mother of chapel' at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus chapel, told a meeting of the campaign.
The campaign now plans to organise a national delegates' meeting for chapels across Britain. The fight is being led by young, and in many cases trainee, journalists-just as it was in the 1970s when the NUJ was forged on the picket line. Journalists have had enough of low pay, forced down after the defeat of the unions at Wapping and derecognition in the last ten years.
The Wakefield Express, part of the Johnson Group, has maintained recognition during those years. But the chapel recently discovered that juniors are on the same pay levels as they were in 1993. Meal allowance payments have not risen in 12 years. The Yorkshire Post is owned by Regional Independent Media.
The paper is the flagship of the venture capitalist group, whose hardline attitude has seen redundancies and a general depression of pay for a number of years.
But anger at a management crackdown over sickness absences has fuelled a renewed mood of defiance. Like Newsquest at Bradford, where just one half-day strike forced them to back down, newspaper bosses can be taken on.
'We had no record of fighting, but that did not affect the success of action,' said Sarah Walsh. 'You don't have to be battle hardened to do it. The company said it wouldn't budge but it did, and some of our juniors got thousands of pounds in pay rise.'