Socialist Worker

Fighting for our jobs - and quality journalism

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2263

Striking journalists in South Yorkshire have been buoyed by support from other trade unionists—and from readers  (Pic: Julia Armstrong)

Striking journalists in South Yorkshire have been buoyed by support from other trade unionists—and from readers (Pic: Julia Armstrong)


Journalists in South Yorkshire are in their third week of an all-out strike to save jobs. They are fighting against everything the likes of Rupert Murdoch represent.

The 25 members of the NUJ journalists’ union walked out at five papers owned by the giant Johnston Press group—the Doncaster Free Press, Epworth Bells, South Yorkshire Times, Goole Courier and Selby Times.

This is the first indefinite strike in the media for a decade.

The strikers are angry and mostly young. There is a strong mood of determination. They recognise the strike is not just about redundancies and working conditions, but defending reporting standards.

As one striker said, “With all the sludge of corruption being churned up from the Murdoch scandal it’s time to fight to change all that.

“At the same time our strike is part of the fight against workers paying for a crisis they didn’t create.

“We’ve been on rolling strike before and we knew we had to go on all‑out strike to really make an impact.”

Another young NUJ member said, “We all shuddered in horror at what’s been allowed to happen at the News of the World.

“But it’s vital that we distinguish between newspapers that stoop to the lows of phone hacking and corruption and those that genuinely and ethically represent the views and issues within our communities.

“This is a great opportunity to stand up for journalism that matters before it’s too late.

“In their desperate greed to increase profits for their shareholders, they slash and merge titles.

Saddled

“They leave behind hundreds of poorly paid journalists working longer hours with impossible workloads.

“We are not prepared to stand by and watch our colleagues lose their jobs and watch local newspapers disappear.

“We won’t pay the price of Johnston Press’s spending spree, which left the company saddled with millions of pounds of debt.

“Because we do have great links with our communities, we’ve had fantastic support from MPs, local councillors, trade unions and most importantly our readers.

“We think that good local and investigative journalism has a future and we’re prepared to stand firm until they’re prepared to listen.”

The strikes at Johnston Press and the BBC reflect growing confidence among trade unionists.

South Yorkshire NUJ branch has already passed a motion demanding the union’s leadership “name the day” for coordinated strikes with other workers this autumn.

Anger among local journalists has been building over the jobs massacre of the last few years.

Recent one and two-day strikes at the Newsquest and Tindle groups were solid, but left isolated.

So far Johnston bosses are refusing to budge. Wider action can shift them.

NUJ leaders should immediately campaign for solidarity action within the group to build a national focus for a fight across the whole union.


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