Journalists at Scotland’s Herald, Sunday Herald and Glasgow Evening Times newspapers won a victory on Friday of last week. Management have backed down on the threat of compulsory redundancies and agreed to negotiate with the union.
Journalists from the Evening Times were on a 24-hour strike and Sunday Herald journalists had just walked out to begin a two day strike when the news came of management’s concessions. This was the third strike in this dispute.
The strike was suspended and representatives of the NUJ journalists’ union were set to meet the managing director as Socialist Worker went to press.
A Sunday Herald writer told Socialist Worker, “This is an excellent and very important victory. However, the threat of future cuts remains and there are still questions about the future quality of the titles.”
In 2003 when the titles were taken over by Newsquest, the British wing of US media giant Gannett, staff were given assurances that the quality of the publications would be maintained.
Profits from the three titles have risen every year since the takeover. Gannett – the biggest newspaper chain in the US – also recently announced quarterly profits up 18 percent.
One NUJ member from the Evening Times told Socialist Worker, “Everyone who works here is committed to getting out a top quality product, but the current editor doesn’t seem interested in quality.
“This used to be a great place to work, and we used to have a reputation as a campaigning local paper, but now there is no respect for the staff and there is corner cutting all the time.”
Jim McNally, the NUJ assistant organiser in Scotland was on the picket line last Friday. He told Socialist Worker, “There are a lot of concerns about future cuts – more are planned for September.
“The strike has had a lot of support from the public. People have been ringing up and asking which days they should boycott the papers.”
The management inflamed the dispute by suspending an NUJ representative two weeks ago and effectively derecognising the union. The NUJ rep was reinstated last week and management is now meeting the union for negotiations.
The Sunday Herald strike was timed to coincide with the relaunch of the paper. Among other changes, the relaunch includes axing arts criticism from the paper – putting in jeopardy the jobs of the art critics, most of whom are employed on a freelance basis.
The latest win is seen by most NUJ members as an important victory in a wider fight. As well as the threat of more cuts in September, there is an ongoing threat to pensions.
Keith Sinclair, deputy father of chapel (workplace union rep) at NUJ Glasgow, branch said, “We will seek to cooperate with management, but it is important to stress again that compulsory redundancies – whether it be one or 100 – is the line in the sand for the NUJ.
“We are implacably opposed to compulsory redundancies, always have been, always will be.”