Journalists at the Blackpool Gazette and Herald are to start an indefinite work to rule from next week, as they and colleagues across Johnston Press prepare for a group-wide industrial action ballot being conducted by the NUJ this month.
Journalists are opposing what they say are management efforts to force through the introduction, with inadequate staffing and training, of the ATEX content management system which threatens the quality of journalism in local newspapers.
“Members are angry and dismayed at the effect the introduction of ATEX is having on their ability to do their jobs and on their working conditions, as well as the damage it is doing to the quality of the papers,” said NUJ northern and midlands organiser Chris Morley.
Before the decision to call a national ballot, journalists at Johnston titles in Scarborough and Sheffield already planned a vote on strike action on the issue, while their colleagues in Blackpool had already taken industrial action following a strike ballot.
NUJ members at the Leeds-based Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post also voted to ballot on strike action over the introduction ATEX. Joint father of chapel Peter Lazenby told members that it was clear that further redundancies were imminent in Leeds in a matter of weeks."Our colleagues in other centres across the north have been called in individually to be told that they can apply for other jobs miles way or be made redundant - simple as that. Even if they apply they could still be sacked.
"They are being told that if they agree not to take industrial action they can have their pitiful redundancy payments topped up by £2,500 - so long as they co-operate with introduction of the system that will then destroy their jobs."
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “No-one should underestimate how angry journalists throughout the Johnston group are at the attacks on their jobs and working conditions and how despite the fact that they have taken on more skills and more work they are being rewarded with a further pay freeze and a new threat to jobs."