NUJ members at Newsquest Northeast, publisher of The Northern Echo, The Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and the Advertiser series, have started to ballot for industrial action over proposed redundancies and a continuing pay freeze across the group.
They have also unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the chief executives of Newsquest and Newsquest's US parent company Gannett.
The motion reads: "We hold no confidence in Craig Dubow, chief executive of Gannett, for permitting a pay time bomb to grow and grow to the point where members of staff have now gone 1,045 days without a pay rise, a wage freeze that has not been shared at the executive level.
"We hold no confidence in Paul Davidson, chief executive of Newsquest, who accepted a pay rise of £106,000 while maintaining a pay freeze on staff. Were he to forego that pay rise, most of the redundancies now being made would not have to be made. If things are as bad as they are made out to be, why does he not receive a pay cut?
"In addition he has seen his pension contributions rise by £59,500, at a time when members are facing the closure of the company pension scheme. We hold no confidence in David Coates, managing director of Newsquest North-East. Members note his cowardice in failing to be present when fundamental changes to the production of the flagship titles in Darlington were announced. We would ask that if he cannot be there during one of the most important moments in the modern history of the Darlington centre, why does he need to be there at all?"
The NUJ's Northern and Midlands organiser, Chris Morley said: "Given the long-running pay freeze, Newsquest Northeast's plan to merge production their daily and weekly titles, with the loss of 8 jobs is just the final straw for staff. The proposed redundancies spell disaster for the titles. It is a short-sighted policy that will result in lower quality and readership declining, as editorial staff are stretched ever more thinly.
"Staff are shocked at Newsquest's preparedness to jettison so many of their most valuable assets - experienced, dedicated staff who have been responsible for the success of the titles. We are not prepared to stand by and allow Newsquest to press ahead with their plans for staff redundancies and, ultimately, business suicide."