JOURNALISTS at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers are to strike, from midnight tonight, over job cuts.
Members of the National Union of Journalists at the titles want to stop management forcing through around 20 compulsory redundancies.
In January, parent company, Trinity Mirror, announced plans for 70 job cuts and merged production of the two titles under one editor-in-chief, Bruce Waddell.
While there are believed to be 32 volunteers for redundancy, the threat of compulsory redundancies, to fill the gap, led to a ballot of union members, which delivered an 85 per cent vote in favour of strike action and a 90 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
The union is suggesting the company take advantage of the immediate efficiencies that would stem from 40 voluntary redundancies and then discuss with the NUJ how to further cut costs, including via the introduction of a new editorial production system.
Should talks fail to resolve the dispute today, NUJ members will stage a walk-out for 24 hours followed by a work to rule. It is understood they will be joined by a large number of non-NUJ members.
Said Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser: “It is beyond logic that the senior management team are refusing to accept our offer of a compromise.
“They appear to be implementing the selection process for compulsory redundancies and have held a series of meetings ahead of their own timetable, acting in undue haste in my opinion.
“They must realise that anyone being identified for compulsory redundancy will trigger an escalation and seriously damage the trust and goodwill of staff for the foreseable future.
“This doesn’t make sense for a company wishing to introduce a new production system and seeking co-operation with extensive changes in working practices.
“The [NUJ] chapel are as solid as they come and recognise how serious this is not only for their own futures but the future of these important national newspapers.”
Last week, in response to the ballot result, a company spokesperson described the union’s behaviour as “reckless and negligent”, saying that the company would not be deterred in adapting to the “new media landscape” and current economic conditions.
Yesterday, the papers’ managing director, Mark Hollinshead, said “talks are ongoing”.
Addition: at 4.30pm, Mark Hollinshead sent the following memo to staff:
“It is with the greatest of disappointment that I am writing to let you know that members of the NUJ will take part in industrial action tomorrow in an attempt to stop production of the Sunday Mail and Daily Record.
“At a time of economic crisis and cataclysmic change in the newspaper industry this action can only have one effect. It will most certainly harm our business and the newspapers we are all proud to work for.
“This will undoubtedly create the requirement for further change if we are to get through the recession in one piece. Tomorrow our rditorial team will produce our newspapers to the best of their ability with the resource they have.
“To everyone who has volunteered to help in any way they can may I, on behalf of the senior team, thank you for your support. It is very much appreciated.
“For those colleagues scheduled to work tomorrow, I can guarantee that you will have safe access to the building without fear of any intimidation whatsoever.
“The Dignity at Work policy will be closely observed.
“The technological change we are about to embark on will transform the way we produce our newspapers and prepare the way for us to be a better equipped organisation in what will be a dramatically different, and even more competitive, media world.
“Change is always uncomfortable. However, these technological changes to our business will benefit everyone who works at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd.
“This isn’t just about our editorial colleagues. It’s about the tele-ads selling hard in the most difficult advertising market ever.
“It’s about the IT staff who work all night monitoring the resilience of our network. It’s about the cleaners and the circulation reps and the credit control team who are constantly on the phone chasing money to pay all our wages.
“The transformation taking place in our business is about all of us.
“Tomorrow, our competitors will try and have a field day. They won’t.
“Business is challenging at the moment and we have some difficult decisions to make. Such decisions will not be popular I know that, but, in the longer term, they will be the right ones.
“Kind regards. Mark”