Journalists on the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough have joined Trinity Mirror colleagues in Newcastle and the West Midlands and decided to ballot for industrial action over threatened compulsory redundancies.
The Gazette's NUJ chapel has sent a letter to Evening Gazette editor Darren Thwaites claiming the job cuts will hurt the quality of their paper and cause a fall in morale.
The letter says: : "Dear Darren, This letter is to express the dismay the Chapel feels after the announcement that seven jobs in the editorial department are to be lost.
"We are further disappointed that some of these will be by compulsory redundancy and that a 'deselection process' is now under way.
"It was only six months ago that the editorial department on Teesside was restructured in a cost-cutting exercise with the loss of five jobs. Since that major reduction in manning levels the editorial staff at the Evening Gazette have worked extremely hard in challenging circumstances. We have shown real professionalism and dedication to adapt to new working practices, embrace new skills and technologies, cope with district office closures and function in new departments with increased workloads to produce consistent top quality content across a range of print and multi-media platforms.
"We are regularly told by yourself that we are the best performing regional title in Trinity Mirror. We have won awards and plaudits for our journalism in paper and online and our unstinting commitment to the job has never wavered.
"However, we feel that these latest cuts by Trinity Mirror will have a marked detrimental impact on the quality of the product.
"We accept these are difficult economic times but to lose so many staff so soon after previous damaging job loses will, in our opinion, reduce the department to its bare bones and jeopardise our ability to produce the best possible paper. We feel as journalists editorial quality will undoubtedly be affected. We anticipate morale dipping and some staff, in search of more security, moving on with valuable skills and experience lost.
"We understand that at present costs must be controlled but we believe that staff should be retained so that quality will be undiminished when we exit these difficult times.
"Editorial staff on Teesside have wholeheartedly embraced the digital agenda, learned new skills, worked extra unpaid hours to produce quality digital content on top of excellent work for print and we have delivered the goods with extremely strong digital audience figures and among the most resilient circulation in the country. If the digital strategy has not resulted in the revenue returns hoped for that is a corporate strategic mistake and not the responsibility of the journalists who it seems are expendable when the balance sheet looks bad and are regarded as a cost to be trimmed rather than an asset that will be central to any recovery.
"We acknowledge that these redundancies are not at your behest but are a directive from Canary Wharf and we continue to hope to have a productive working relationship with you during this testing time. However, we feel we have to draw a line in the sand and make a statement for we fear for the future direction and viability of the Evening Gazette. In short we are making a stand for journalism on Teesside.
"As you know the Middlesbrough NUJ Chapel has voted to start the process which will lead to a ballot for industrial action. You will receive official notice of that in the coming days.
Yours The NUJ Middlesbrough Chapel"