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Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/12462

Posted on 1 August 2011 at 15:15 GMT

South Yorkshire newspapers NUJ strike, July-Aug 2011, photo Alistair Tice

South Yorkshire newspapers NUJ strike, July-Aug 2011, photo Alistair Tice   (Click to enlarge)

Huston - we have a problem!

Graeme Huston is the editor in chief of the South Yorkshire Newspapers group.

He is the problem!

He is why around 25 National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members in Doncaster, Selby and Mexborough are in the third week of indefinite strike action which started on 15 July.

NUJ official Lawrence Shaw explains: "In the latest (scab) edition of the Donny Free Press, Huston has compiled a list of the '50 most powerful people in Doncaster'.

"Like some sort of modern-day Narcissus, Huston put himself third in the list, ahead of, amongst others, Ed Miliband and all MPs in the area, as well as nearly all local employers and business leaders... This is, of course, also after four separate votes of no confidence in his editorship by the NUJ chapel!"

Darren, the acting Father of Chapel (FOC - National Union of Journalists' union rep) said: "The strike is about everything - office closures, staff cuts, merged jobs, increased workloads and hours, low pay - all of which mean poorer quality local newspapers."

Another striker, Barbara, said: "I worked during the last strike in 2006, but they've gone too far this time. We know it's not a 9-5 job but it shouldn't be a sweatshop either.

"I just feel that after everything we've done, I've been smacked in the face with a wet fish."

Meanwhile, Hayley is giving it large on her megaphone on the picket line: "25 quid from Maplins, best money I ever spent." Plenty of tooting horns go past as shoppers stop to sign the petition in support.

Mark used to work at Epworth in North Lincs but that office has already been closed so he has to work out of the Doncaster office. "There's only two of us and my colleague is on long-term sick so 'I am the Epworth Bells!' The title is 139 years old, had our 7,000th edition in March, and then the MD closes it down.

"He says they want to keep a local editorial presence - that's a post box in the local library! Some commitment to Johnston Press' slogan of 'Life is Local'.

"So far Johnston Press (JP) and the SYN management have made 'No Comment'!".

In an attempt to make progress, the NUJ chapel have approached arbitration service ACAS after passing the following resolution:

"The senior management of SYN and indeed JP has shown that it is absolutely incapable of producing or expediting any kind of fair or lawful consultation on a redundancy plan which we believe will fatally damage its titles, our jobs and futures, and which will harm a free Press in this country.

"Instead the company has relied on a combination of bullying, harassment and bunker mentality to deliver a no-consultation approach in unlawfully pushing through these proposals.

"For this reason, the SYN chapel now calls on the auspices of the government in the form of ACAS to intervene in this dispute. If the company yet again fails to engage, this demonstrates the complete moral, managerial and strategic redundancy of SYN and JP itself.

"The SYN NUJ chapel reiterates its willingness to meaningfully negotiate a settlement of this dispute which does not harm our titles, our members or the future of the Press."

The strikers are really determined to see this one out, and confident they can win. Picket rotas have been drawn up, Newspaper Awards targeted, and three editions of NUJ member-produced local newssheets come out every Thursday to counter the management's issues.

Please send messages of support to darrenpburke@gmail.com and donations to account name: DFP NUJ Chapel, account no: 35630388, sort code: 60-06-39.

Alistair Tice, Yorkshire Socialist Party

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