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February 18, 2014

Newsquest North East strike goes ahead as management defends Welsh subbing super hub

By Dominic Ponsford

Journalists defied warnings from management to begin a 24-hour strike at midnight today at Newsquest’s local newspapers in the North East as the company defended its Wales super subbing-hub plan for the first time.

Other newspaper publishers, such as Local World, have rejected remote subbing hubs – preferring to keep all their journalists at local centres.

But Newsquest Yorkshire and North East managing director David Coates said in a statement:

Some journalists working for Newsquest North-East are taking part in industrial action today.  Our newspapers will be on sale as normal and our websites will be unaffected.

Businesses across the world are having to adapt, and embrace new technology, to remain competitive. The media industry is facing huge structural change and Newsquest North-East has responded by investing in a state-of-the-art editorial system which will make journalists’ jobs significantly easier. It will enable us to publish our content far more efficiently across multi-digital platforms and in print.

A consequence of this necessary change is that part of the sub-editing process will be transferred to a production centre in Wales.   All key editorial decisions and judgments will continue to be made in the North East, including final output of pages to our print centres.  Newsgathering by an unrivalled number of local reporters and photographers is completely unaffected.

Consultations began in November and are ongoing, and the company is disappointed that members of the National Union of Journalists have chosen to take industrial action which is considered to be disproportionate and counter-productive to the long established business which employs them.”

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Around 25 sub-editors have been told their jobs are moving up to 270 miles away to a subbing hub in Wales.

Newsquest has said that the move is covered by TUPE rules and that those who refuse to move are not automatically entitled to redundancy payouts. It is not offering staff any relocation packages for moving to Wales.

Staff going on strike have been warned by management that they could be in breach of contracts – but Newsquest has made no legal challange to the strike.

The titles affected include dailies the Northern Echo, The Press in York (strikers pictured above) and the Bradford Telegraph and Argus (strikers pictured below).

Five Labour MPs have signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament condemning the Welsh super-hub plan.

It states:

That this House deeply regrets that Newsquest Media Group intends to transfer the design and sub-editing for the Northern Echo (Darlington), Telegraph and Argus (Bradford) and the Press (York) to Newport, Wales; notes that the US-based owner Gannett paid £922 million for Newsquest in 1999, taking on the company's debt, leading to cutbacks and lack of investment in the local newspaper titles; further notes that the current plans represent de-skilling of the workforce and entail serious risks in the reduction of quality due to the loss of local knowledge and the vital connection with the local community; resolves to support members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) taking action to defend local journalism; and calls on the Government to convene urgent discussions with the NUJ and publishers to discuss how to encourage investment, decent pay and conditions essential for a thriving local press and also to develop an effective strategy for protecting local jobs and quality journalism.”

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