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August 10, 2022updated 07 Oct 2022 7:12am

National World staff in Scotland vote in favour of strike action

By Charlotte Tobitt

Staff on National World’s Scottish titles have voted in favour of strike action over a proposal for compulsory redundancies.

The National Union of Journalists members who took part in the ballots work on The Scotsman, The Edinburgh Evening News and a number of smaller weekly titles.

They have objected to plans to cut around 30 jobs at legacy JPI Media titles, with the Scottish brands among the hardest hit, with the same number of digital roles at National World’s new city websites simultaneously being created. Staff are worried about workloads, with one insider previously telling Press Gazette those remaining could end up “doing the job of three or four people”.

At The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, 29 of 45 NUJ members voted – a turnout of 64.4%. Of those, 27 (93%) voted yes to strike action and 26 (90%) voted for action short of a strike.

In a second ballot for the weekly titles, which include The Falkirk Herald, and Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 23 NUJ members were balloted and 15 voted – a turnout of 65.2%. The NUJ said ten of those (66%) voted in favour of strike action, while 11 (73%) were in favour of action short of a strike.

The company said it was “disappointed” in the result.

The NUJ said it would still try to avoid industrial action by engaging with the company further on the potential for voluntary redundancies instead of compulsory ones. It said the result gives it the mandate to seek industrial action at any time in the next six months.

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NUJ national organiser for Scotland John Toner said: “We are delighted that our members have shown their strength of feeling through an independent ballot. Compulsory redundancies are a red line for our members, and we applaud their principled stance.

“It should go without saying, but we would prefer to resolve this dispute without the need for industrial action. There is still time for the employer to consider applications for voluntary redundancy that have been made and avoid the need to force our members [out] of their jobs. We will be meeting with our members over the next couple of days to discuss what action to take and when to take it.”

A National World spokesperson said: “National World has today received confirmation from the NUJ that members at our Scotland titles have voted in favour of industrial action. We recognise that this is a difficult time for all involved however are disappointed at the stance taken by the NUJ and firmly believe that industrial action is not in the best interests of our staff or our business.”

The company previously said of its proposals: “Given the rapidly changing nature of the media marketplace, National World is continually reorganising its teams to best serve its national footprint and the many city world launches that have taken place in the last 18 months.

“This involves a measure of redeployment, voluntary redundancy options and recruitment of 30 new digital journalist roles, which are currently being advertised.

“We have highly motivated teams who relish the changes taking place to our publishing model in order to take advantage of individual expertise and to further automate historical industrial editorial production processes, which will make National World more competitive and relevant to our customers.”

Scotsman editor Neil McIntosh told staff in an email last month that industrial action “risks harming the business” but that he did “understand the depth of feeling about the restructure and the potential for job losses that it brings.

“It is happening because we have to protect the longer-term sustainability of our business,” he said.

Last week National World, which bought JPI Media at the end of 2020, said its adjusted pre-tax profits were up 60% year-on-year to £5.9m with revenue up 3% to £43.5m year-on-year in the first half of 2022 thanks to boosts in digital advertising and digital subscription revenues.

Journalists at Reach are also currently being balloted about strike action by the NUJ after pay talks broke down.

The last strike by UK journalists was at local publisher Bullivant Media, where staff picketed in August 2020 over pay, working practices and planned redundancies.

Earlier this month almost 300 journalists at Reuters in the US walked out for a day over a “miserly” pay offer.

[Read more: Summer of strikes? Nearly 300 Reuters journalists in US go on strike while ballots out at National World and Reach]

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