Socialist Worker

Johnston Press journalists angry as bosses turn to courts

by Julia Armstrong, NUJ MoC, Sheffield Newspapers (personal capacity)
Issue No. 2202

Journalists working across the 22 publications owned by the Johnston Press Group are furious after bosses won a court injunction to stop their strike last week.

The 560 workers, represented by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), voted by over 70 percent in favour of industrial action.

Our bosses have run to the law and hidden behind a technicality to stop the strike – it is part of the ongoing attack on trade union and workers’ rights using the anti-union laws.

Johnston Press claim that they do not employ any staff directly. But we wanted widespread action – we know that the firm controls everything from its headquarters. Local managements are not allowed to take decisions alone.

They knew that the first national action by NUJ members for 30 years was on a scale that would scupper their usual strike-breaking activities.

Normally they would employ the Press Association (PA) – but we don’t believe PA could cope with dozens of papers all at once.

Workers balloted over the breakneck introduction of a new production system that has caused mayhem, overwork and stress. Management are forcing reporters, news desks and sports and features writers into producing the majority of pages – threatening the jobs of production journalists.

The other issue is the centralisation of production journalists into regional “hubs” forcing workers to relocate, travelling up to 200 miles a day.

This has led to immediate job losses as many staff, unsurprisingly, chose to go rather than face long journeys and costs.

Johnston Press is trying to make workers pay the price for its spending spree when it bought up groups of newspapers, leaving £419 million in debts. But despite huge losses, the company is still profitable because of cost-cutting.

Attempts to stop workers’ action by going to the courts is likely to carry on under the Tory-Lib Dem government – which means a group of workers is going to have to look at taking unofficial action to break this deadlock.

Our next move is to urge chapels (branches) to take part in individual, co-ordinated ballots. One big advantage could be that the call for action could spread into the company’s Scottish titles, which are only just seeing the introduction of the computer system.

Everything must be thrown behind this attempt to push the dispute forwards.

Messages of support can be sent to jennyl@nuj.org.uk


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Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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