Journalists at risk of redundancy on Newsquest’s weekly newspapers in south London have voted to hold a 14-day strike.
It follows the company’s announcement that 27 out of 29 members of editorial staff at the Sutton office, which produces eight titles, are at risk of redundancy as 11 jobs are set to be cut.
The titles and websites affected include the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.
The move comes after local politicians, including Siobhain McDonagh, MP have written to Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker to express their concerns. She said: “Young trainees who start off thinking they are beginning their dream career are dejected and burned out by the workloads and lack of support.”
The strike will start at midnight on Thursday 6 October.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Conditions are tough in the newspaper market, but getting rid of dedicated and talented staff, leaving those remaining with impossible workloads, is not the answer.
“A handful of reporters, with help from a few work experience students, cannot cover half the capital. This will damage the quality of the newspapers and websites and will have a knock-on effect on circulation figures.
“The huge response from local politicians and London Assembly members across the political spectrum shows they fear reduced news coverage will have a negative impact on local democracy and the holding to account of councils and local businesses.
“My members do not want to take this action, but they have been forced by a management which is intent on maintaining profit for shareholders at the expense of the health of its workforce.”
NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “It is heart-breaking to see ambitious and enthusiastic young journalists being thwarted by unacceptable hours, a content management system which is not fit for purpose and poor working conditions.
“These newspapers have let go people with many years of experience and now staff are voting with their feet and getting out. This is putting huge pressure on those who remain.”
Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker told Press Gazette: “We are restructuring the free newspaper portfolio in south London precisely to ensure that local journalism there can continue in the face of the ongoing structural shift of revenues to the likes of Google and Facebook. Very regrettably, this puts at risk a number of roles.”
Staff at Newsquest South London have sought donations from colleagues around the country to “sustain them as they take this action”. They have asked those interest in contributing to email firstname.lastname@example.org.