SOME 91.5 percent of NUJ members at Newsquest Bradford voted last week for more strikes. That is an even bigger majority than when they first balloted. Strikes are now planned between Wednesday of next week and Sunday 27 April. Twenty seven MPs have signed an Early Day Motion, a parliamentary petition, calling on the US-owned newspaper publisher Gannett, which owns Newsquest, to make a realistic pay offer to journalists.
Gannett has not improved its below inflation 2 percent pay offer. Graduate trainees are on as little as £12,000 and qualified senior journalists on just £15,000. Last week NUJ members on Newsquest's Bolton and Bury titles staged their first two-day strike.
In 2001 Newsquest Lancashire made pre-tax profits of £5.3 million - that's £14,695 profit a day. Trainee journalists at Bury start on £10,800. In Bolton, evening paper journalists with all their professional qualifications start on £15,390. Gannet has announced worldwide profits for 2002 of $1.1 billion. NUJ national executive member for the north west Dave Toomer told Socialist Worker: 'This is a strike against low pay and the miserable conditions at Newsquest and other local papers. The strike is solid. Morale on the picket line is fantastic and we have management on the run. Newsquest needs to learn the lessons. They sacked me when I was father of the chapel (workplace union secretary) at the Bolton Evening News to stop precisely this happening. But the only thing that will end the run of strikes in local newspapers across the country is if the poverty pay and low morale in the industry is tackled.'
Phil Turner and Neil McAlister
A NATIONAL strike ballot of BBC journalists began last week as activists leafleted sites across the country. Journalists are fighting to reinstate Abdul-Hadi Jiad and Adli Hawwari, an Iraqi and a Palestinian journalist who were sacked without warning from the BBC Arabic Service in February.
Both sacked journalists have a proud record of activism in the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). Activists believe their sacking is an attempt to instil fear into remaining journalists and muzzle critical reporting of the war on Iraq. At a meeting at NUJ head office last week, the union's general secretary, Jeremy Dear, spelt out the links between the government's war propaganda and the intimidation of journalists at the BBC.
The sackings are the latest in a long history of mistreatment of journalists by the BBC World Service, based at the aptly named Bush House in central London. The World Service is not funded by the licence fee, but is paid for by the Foreign Office, where it is seen as 'an important instrument of British foreign policy'.
Incredibly, the BBC has admitted that it informed the Foreign Office about the sackings.