Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It was 30 years ago...and bloody freezing

This winter marks the 3oth anniversary of the NUJ's first and only national strike involving 8,000 regional journalists who walked out in protest at the Newspaper Society's pay offer. It is seen as something of a triumph for the union because it was solidly supported by members for seven long weeks and resulted in a 14 per cent pay rise. It was a high point of militancy in a union whose members often find it easier to disagree than show solidarity.
But before people get too overcome with comradely nostalgia it is important to remember the downsides. Going on strike in the middle of a harsh winter and over Christmas was extremely tough on the membership... it was bloody freezing.
The strike proved that without printers backing the journalists, newspapers could still come out using Press Association copy for nearly two months despite having large numbers of their editorial staff in danger of hypothermia on the picket lines outside.
NUJ members returned to work without being able to secure the reinstatement of members sacked on the Nottingham Evening Post who had backed the dispute, even though the Post was not covered by the NS agreement.
It led to the end of a national pay agreement with the NS which had at least set minimum rates for regional newspapers.
Finally, despite that show of militancy, rates of pay on regional newspapers are still dreadful.

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