Journalists working on regional newspapers in south London walked out on the first day of a week-long strike today, Thursday.
They are fighting job cuts that could pave the way for similar attacks on workers at local papers across Britain.
Bosses at Newsquest South London have put their newsroom on redundancy notice. They want just 12 reporters and four editors to produce 11 newspapers and eight websites. But the striking journalists from the NUJ union are determined to stop them.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had a big turnout. We wanted all our members out on the picket line on the first day to make a statement to the company.
“I don’t think they were expecting us to push back as much as we have. We’ve had lots of support and lots of cars going past honking.”
Another striker added, “We’ve had lots of support from journalists on other papers, politicians and the community.”
Journalists at the south London papers are already overstretched after jobs were slashed as part of a restructure last year.
They struck then too and won the London Living Wage for trainee reporters. But the cuts went through after strikers ended their action early.
“What they did to the newsroom last year was unsustainable,” one striker said. “But that seems like a utopia compared to what they’re trying to do to us.
“As a union we’re quite tight and morale is high—everyone’s up for a fight. But everyone is angry with the company, at the way that they’ve treated us.”
Another added, “It’s hard to be motivated when managers tell you that your job isn’t important. We’ve been told that the articles are just information next to adverts.”
Newsquest bosses are ruthless and sneaky. Bosses demanded strikers call off the action for talks at the Acas conciliation service when it was originally set to begin last Thursday.
But when the action was suspended, managers told officials they had nothing new to offer and nothing to talk about.
Bosses’ dirty tricks have made strikers want to hit back even harder. “We’re even more up for the fight after that debacle,” said one.
“With no journalists in the newsroom we’re interested to see what the state of the papers will be like. They published a review on the front page—and a plagiarised article from a competitor.”
Strikers plan to campaign in the areas covered by their papers to drum up support. They have visits to parliament and the Greater London Assembly planned—and are expecting visits from MPs on the picket line.
Journalists at regional papers across the country are all under the cosh, with bosses attacking workers in response to falling sales. Pickets said they'd had support from journalists working for other local newspapers.
One striker said, “Other journalists who are employed by Newsquest all over the country have been particularly supportive.
“They acknowledge the fact that, if they impose this on us, they’re next.”