Daily Echo facing second wave of strikes

Posted on December 4, 2010 by

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Hampshire’s main local paper, The Southern Daily Echo, will be hit yet again by more strikes this coming week (Tuesday 7th & Wednesday 8th) as part of a nationwide stoppage against owners Newsquest.

National Union of Journalists  (NUJ) members first striked last month in a dispute over pay freezes to ordinary staff (whilst bosses reportedly got pay rises), along with their final-salary-pension scheme being scrapped for being too costly (despite reports that the company made a big profit this year).

Special Edition of the Daily Echo, now with more witty headlines!

The first wave of strikes, which The Blowhole reported here, were held on Tuesday 9-10 November, when according to the Daily Echo chapel of the NUJ:

…around 75 per cent of the journalists based at the Newsquest offices in Southampton were out on strike in early November. This was due to the Newsquest continuing to impose an ongoing pay freeze on staff – despite making profits of up to £88m and awarding the company’s top boss a 21 per cent pay rise, taking his salary to over £600,000 a year.

Forty reporters, sub-editors, photographers and other NUJ members went on strike for two days. A later planned strike was cancelled with the hope of entering meaningful negotitaions with management.

Sadly, those talks came to nothing so once again the NUJ members will be once again going on strike.

Another strike was set to take place on 16-17 November but was cancelled by the union after management announced it was prepared to hold talks.  However, it is claimed that it became rapidly clear that the meeting would be pretty pointless, with the Echo editor Ian Murray indicating that the pay freeze (which they were all there to discuss) would not be up for discussion.  After no new offer was made to the staff in the meeting NUJ members unsurprisingly decided to schedule another strike.

Special Edition, Part Deux

David Brine, father of the Southern Daily Echo chapel, has said: “Strike action is always a last resort but we feel they have been left with no alternative… We accepted a pay freeze for the first year but the healthy profit made by the company on the back of our members’ work has blown a hole in their argument that the wage freeze should remain. We should share in the fruits of our labours.”

Other Newsquest owned papers will also be facing strikes at the same time, including at Darlington and at Brighton’s The Argus (over plans to centralise operations in Southampton and shed 6 sub-editors), with journalists in Oxford, York, Bradford, Bolton and Blackburn are also being balloted over strike action.  The NUJ is considering launching a national campaign against the company, with suggestions o a joint strike across Newsquest papers next January.  With Newsquest reportedly making profits of up to £88m and the top boss getting a 21 per cent pay rise and its parent company stating that “Newsquest makes a lot of money”, it’s no surprise overworked Newsquest employees around the country facing real-term pay drops and reduced pensions  are unimpressed.

We would like to offer solidarity to the striking workers, as preserving a thriving local media is close to our hearts here at The Blowhole, and local papers are facing huge cutbacks and dismantling for seemingly not being profitable enough.  Despite our differences with the Echo on its sometimes tabloidy nature and its position in the corporate mainstream, the journalists there shouldn’t have to be taking such an obviously unfair and crappy deal.  In the meantime, we’ll continue to try and provide a leading independent and alternative news source for Southampton, and we would welcome any moonlighting by Echo writers if they agree!

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Posted in: Comment, News, Southampton, UK