Workers at South Yorkshire newspapers owned by Johnston Press today began an all out strike against redundancies. This followed a vote that was 100 percent for action on a 90 percent turnout. Nineteen out of 20 journalists voted for the action—and the last was on holiday.
Jim Oldfield is editor of the South Yorkshire Times and a proud member of the NUJ, told a public meeting in London:
‘Johnston Press borrowed almost £1 billion to acquire local papers. They use the slogan, ‘Life is local’. But what they did was centralise and asset strip. Things went OK for them until they got burned in 2008. Share prices plummeted.
‘There was nothing left to asset strip so they were picking the bones to make a thin gruel.’
Four operators now control almost all local papers. There are clumps of papers owned by the same company across the country.
‘On my paper a trainee reporter gets £14,000. As editor I get £25,500. Are you surprised local papers can’t attract or keep the kind of people who will produce stories?
Jim said, ‘The former managing director, who was on £91,000, ‘The company is not a charity here to indulge the lifestyle choices of its workers’.
‘Now we have been told that our staff will drop from six to three journalists.
We are going to win our strike. But everything I’ve told you is being repeated and magnified across other operators.’
On Wednesday night Jim insisted on running a front page detailing the reasons for the dispute. He refused management demands to make substantial editorial changes to the article. After a stand off of several hours management backed down and the article was printed unchanged.
NUJ members at the Doncaster Free Press, Epworth Bells, South Yorkshire Times, Goole Courier and Selby Times have walked out indefinitely.
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