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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Chapel meeting

On Tuesday, we will be holding a chapel meeting at the Red Lion in Darlington at 1.15pm. It's not a mandatory meeting, but we would urge as many members as possible to attend to discuss the outcomes from meetings with management. See you there, but if anyone has anything they wish to raise if they cannot make it to the meeting, email either or Stephen Hunt at

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Spot the difference

NEWSQUEST North-East sent letters to a number of editorial staff in Darlington yesterday informing them their jobs were under threat “in response to the continued economic downturn”.
Today Pearson announced its Financial Times Group “is expecting a substantial growth in profits on the back of an improving advertising market and resilient subscription rates”.
Either someone’s telling porkies or they are just not up to the job they are being paid to do.
For a report on the FT Group’s success, see UK Press Gazette.

Wobbly hub rolls nearer

JUST as Johnston Press and Northcliffe have announced plans to dismantle their centralised subbing operations because they do not work, Newsquest has announced it is setting up a hub to serve its titles in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire to “streamline the business”.
Six staff members are to be made redundant. Apparently the streamlining does not affect managerial types who set their own targets and miss them or executives whose only significant achievements are to boost their own pay packets.
For more details, see Hold the Front Page.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Newsquest: The latest headlines

THE BBC’S business website carries a report today about pay and rising prices – and how industrial action is taking place at many firms because wages are lagging behind. Among those mentioned is Newsquest, which appears to be acquiring a reputation in the business world – the sort of reputation The Northern Echo would do a story about if it concerned a fire brigade chief and firefighters' wages.
To read the report, click here.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Back to the future

JOURNALISTS at the Sheffield Star are being balloted on industrial action. Does this affect us?
Nine months ago Johnston Press, which owns the Star and a whole host of titles across the North-East and North Yorkshire, set up a centralised subbing hub in Sheffield. This was resisted by journalists and the NUJ, who claimed – rightly – that centralised subbing would not work and would undermine newspaper quality.
Johnston went ahead, handing out P45s and ruining the lives of many loyal staff members in the process.
Nine months down the line, Johnston has announced that its hub isn’t working. Now more redundancies are looming while the company railroads through another untested system, wrecking even more lives.
Could this sorry state of affairs be repeated at a company near you? You bet it could.

For a full report, see Hold the Front Page.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Strike spotted in...

Our strike action - and indeed the broader amount of strike and other action being taken at a number of Newsquest centres - has been covered in The Socialist.

Full details can be found at

And in the interests of fairness and balance, here is the Northern Echo story on the strike:

Just to be clear, the Northern Echo did not seek any comment from the union for its story. We would have been happy to explain our reasons.

A tip of our hat

Many thanks to members of Unison for highlighting our strike. Unison has its own fight on its hands, of course, and people can read about how they are trying to prevent cuts in Darlington at

Redundancy consultation meeting

Tomorrow sees - at long last - a national union rep getting involved with our consultation on redundancies. This has come about after members insisted that such a meeting takes place and credit to management for agreeing at last. The meeting will also involve David Coates, the managing director of Newsquest North-East, which is his first involvement in the collective consultation process, so hopefully we can make some progress towards a deal.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Business group highlights poor pay at Newsquest

THE Real Business organisation has used Newsquest as an example of companies hit by industrial unrest because they pay poor wages.
Dominic Monkhouse says: “Strikes and unrest are fuelling our national psyche of late, which spells trouble for employers. Poor pay is the justification for bin men leaving rubbish on the streets, Heinz workers canning it for the day and Newsquest Media Group failing to make the news.”
Monkhouse goes on to say: “There are two schools of thought as to how to analyse striking staff. The first is that if your employees are willing to strike, they are not worth keeping. The second is to ask yourself if your duty as an employer is falling short – would you really want to work for you?”
Well, when Newsquest took over the group it must have thought its employees were worth keeping – or we’d have been sacked years ago. So that brings us directly to the second point: would Paul Davidson work for himself if it meant a four-year pay freeze, a torpedoed pension scheme and the continuous threat of redundancy?
The answer must be a resounding NO because he’s defrosted his personal pay freeze with a massive 21.5 per cent rise and filled his pension pot with a golden shovel. All he’s got to worry about is redundancy. But when Gannett kicks him out, he won’t be queuing at the job centre with the rest of us.
Monkhouse has “five pearls of accumulated wisdom” for company bosses to ensure their employees stay off the picket lines. Because wisdom appears to be in short supply in certain quarters, anyone interested in reading more should CLICK HERE.

Where’s Woolly?

MISSING PERSON: If anyone sees this man can they please return him to The Northern Echo’s Priestgate office and leave him in reception? He is an integral and important part of Newsquest North-East.

Latest headlines in the press

GUARDIAN media writer Roy Greenslade gives a blow by blow account of strike action by Darlington staff and NUJ members at other centres in Southampton and Brighten (oops, let’s stick to the pre-Newsquest version and call it Brighton).
Greenslade also mentions the visit by former Newsquest editor Peter Greenwood to the Darlington picket line on Friday. Mr Greenwood was editor of the Craven Herald and Pioneer before taking early retirement last June. Hold the Front Page also has a piece on Mr Greenwood’s visit and his support for strikers.
Socialist Worker is running a piece this morning about the strikes at Darlington, Southampton and Brighton under the headline Newsquest: stop press – we’re on strike.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

NUJ Darlington branch meeting

A meeting of the Darlington branch of the NUJ will be held at the Red Lion, in Priestgate, Darlington, on Tuesday, January 18, at 6pm.

The Darlington branch is separate from the Newsquest North-East chapel and includes members of the NUJ who are based in the area but who work in all kinds of companies and also freelance.

Anyone wanting more information can email Stephen Hunt on or the email address.

An extra word of support

A message from a former Echo staff member that came in ahead of our first day of action:

Dear all
Just wanted to let you know that I fully support your 
decision to take part in industrial action tomorrow. 
Journalists and other Echo workers have been subject to 
an erosion in their pay and conditions over many, many 
years. When I worked at Priestgate (1996 - 1999) the very 
fabric of the building had been neglected to such an 
extent that the health and safety of employees was at risk. 
It is this lack of respect for workers at the Echo - 
who are largely professional and loyal in their service - 
that completely justifies your action tomorrow. Be proud! 
Jill Boulton
Former Echo sub and NUJ member


Monday, 10 January 2011

Former Newsquest editor joins picket line

SUPPORT for striking journalists in Darlington was strengthened on Friday by a visit from a former Newsquest editor.
Craven Herald and Pioneer editor Peter Greenwood gave a cash donation to the strike fund and joined the picket line for a couple of hours in wind and snow.
Mr Greenwood, who took early retirement last June, said he was not impressed by the way the company was being run by Newsquest. Members of the picket line agreed with him and thanked him for his support.
Strikers commented later that they were aware of other editors who were less than enchanted with the way Newsquest was running its Darlington operation – but instead of being on the picket line they were inside the building.
Staff at Crown Street library also supported the picket line by supplying flasks of hot water and cups of coffee, tea and soup. Crown Street Post Office staff also gave their support with coffee and hot chocolate.
The Red Lion pub in Priestgate set aside a room for striking journalists and provided boiling water, tea, coffee and biscuits.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Gavin Webster says...

Comedian Gavin Webster, whose most recent work was in BBC1's Walk on the Wild Side, with Jason Manford and Sarah Millican, among others, and has featured in our publication several times over the last ten years, has posted a footnote on his blog in support. Thanks Gavin, your support is much appreciated.

His comment reads:

Solidarity to the Northern Echo workers (I think it covers the journalists but if there's more involved solidarity to them as well). No rises fro three years and offered a derisory 2% this year. 1 of that 2% will be swallowed up by the VAT rise. As far as I'm aware the paper (or the paper's group) has had yearly profits of some £75 million. Let's hope you come out on top in this dispute, it seems where I'm standing there's a solid justification of your industrial action. Solidarity brothers and sisters.

Read his blog at:

NUJ Darlington on tour!

NUJ Darlington members protesting over job cuts and low pay took to the road today to make their case to the public.

As well as staging a picket outside the offices of The Northern Echo and Darlington & Stockton Times in Priestgate, Darlington, staff went here, there and everywhere - despite the snow and ice.

After a morning demonstration in Darlington, members took to the road and staged demonstrations in Bishop Auckland and Durham City. One member even travelled all the way to Surrey to join fellow NUJ members from Newsquest offices in Brighton and Southampton to make their case at the company's headquarters in Surrey.

Pictures show the protest at Weybridge, involving Newsquest staff from Brighton, Southampton, and a representative from Darlington. More pictures will follow from the protests around Darlington and County Durham.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

We are not alone

Thanks to everyone who turned up today to support the strike at the Northern Echo and Darlington and Stockton Times. We were inundated with messages of support. Here's what we personally got sent. If anyone else received others please add them.

Good luck with your strike action today and tomorrow - Bob Smith, Bradford and group FoC.

Great to hear you are fighting back against Newsquest. If you win we all win! Julia Armstrong MoC Sheffield newspapers.

Good luck with your strike. Chris Wheal, chair of NUJ ProfCom and charity NUJ Extra.

Congratulations on your magnificent stand - solidarity greetings from Rotherham Advertiser Chapel. Phil Turner FoC.

Good on you all. It's time journalists made a stand. Henry from the Wigan Evening Post.

Good luck in your fight to defend jobs, conditions, standards and wages. Evening Gazette Chapel.

Howay the lads and lasses on the picket line @ the Echo today. Much solidarity on behalf of the NUJ chapel @ the Newcastle Chron and Jnl, from MoC Amy Hunt.

Greetings and support from the Midlands TUC in your struggle with the Northern Echo. Best wishes Alan Weaver regional policy and campaigns officer  and Cheryl Pidgeon regional secretary.

Hi all, hope the action goes well. You have our full support. Gareth FoC Warrington.

Sending support from Newsgroup in Stourbridge and esp me, Sarah Cousin exNEcho, Durham, about 20 yrs ago! This office nearly went on strike last yr over taking subs  Worcester. Quality issues we predicted av cum tru!

Good luck with the strike from all at the Messenger Newspaper.

Matthew Hobbs at the Warrington Guardian here. Just wanted to voice support for your strike action. I hope you get the result you deserve.

All the best with your efforts. You have our full support. Mike McLean FoC S&UN group chapel (trinity mirror Glasgow)

Very best wishes and congrats to the whole chapel for today and tommorrow's action. Your solid determination despite all the obstacles and threats from the company is an example to the whole union. Stay strong! Thanks.  Pete Murray. President NUJ.

The Nottingham branch sends you its best wishes and support and hopefully today's action is successful and let us know if you need and financial help. Diana Peasey, chair

Wishing you all the support from St Helens for your efforts.

Good luck to all at the Northern Echo in the campaign for better pay. Lucy Lynch, nuj job share  nec member for the midlands.

Good luck with the strike from the Scarborough Evening News chapel, via Dave Barry.

Good luck to everyone at Darlington fighting for a good cause. From Steve in Warrington.

Good luck with the strike today. Your struggle in Darlington is helping journalists across Newsquest. All the best, Jenny Lennox, NUJ head office.

Just a message of support from members of the Shropshire branch of the NUJ - we hope todays action leads to a solution. Rhea Alton (secretary)

Its Matt Hurst FoC at the liverpool daily post + echo. keep fighting  the good fight +best of liuck for today + any continuing action

very best wishes for the campaign - jeff robson telegraph chapel

Good luck to all at Darlington on strike. Shame we at warrington aren't out too. Despite that we are all behind you. Tony Howard. manchester branch.

Whitehaven news chapel West Cumbria support ur strike action

Greetings from all at the Bolton News Chapel who wre 2 have walked out 2 before our strike was called off at 5pm wed. We salute u all.

Very good luck with your action. Sometimes a strike is only way to get anyone's attention and the benefits can be long term. Barbara Goulden. Midlands nec rep.

The Camberwell anti cuts occupiers send their solidarity and support to your strike. If we can do anything let us know. Best of luck and don't give in.

Just to offer our respect to you and your chapel from your colleagues in Brighton. It means a great deal to us that we are standing together with you. Tim

Solidarity greetings to all on strike at Darlington. Fiona Swarbrick, national organiser, publishing department, NUJ

Best of luck to you and the rest of your members in your dispute. Andy Walsh, Manchester

Great to hear fellow nuj members are standing up to management. Good luck. You have my support. Rotherham deputy foc ian townsley.

Solidarity from your fellow strikers in Southampton. I hope the first day on the picket line went well. Good luck tomorrow. Congratulations to everyone for making this brave but necessary stand. Sally, secretary, southern daily echo.

Just seen the picket line on BBC News and mighty impressive it was -
both sides of Crown Street. Started strangely and wondered why you
were picketing the library but the panning camera revealed that was
because the outside of the building was stowed out as they say in
Gateshead. Good to see Tyne-Tees on the ball with not even a mention
so far but I did find out Darlington Market is moving.
Good work from Dave getting on Five Live and giving Davidson
the stick he deserves.
Anyway keep up the good work and if you've got a collection fund going
Scott Wilson has a tenner of mine that can go in there,
Regards Adam Murray (former FoC Darlington)

VIDEO REPORT: Coverage of today's strike action

A video report from the NUJ Darlington strike action today.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A reminder

Why we're protesting

"Why are you lot complaining? You've still got a job!"

It's a perfectly fair question. And the first part of the answer is that soon, some of us won't. There are a few reasons why we've got to the stage where we're willing to go on strike - so let's take a look at how we got to this point.

The Northern Echo, the Darlington & Stockton Times, Advertiser series, Durham Times and all the local products we love creating and which we hope you love reading are all owned by a company called Newsquest. Newsquest owns a host of newspapers up and down the country. It, in turn, is owned by a bigger American fish called Gannett.

Newsquest makes a lot of money. That's not us saying that. That's the chief financial officer of Gannett, Gracia Martore, speaking back in October. She said (and here's the link to the story on the Guardian website
"Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn't make money. Newsquest makes a lot of money.
In fact, their margin, as I have said a couple of times, is consistent with the margin that our local US community publishing operations generate.
So their margins are in the high teens to low 20s. And they have consistently made money throughout the years, even in a year like last year when revenues were under as much pressure as they were."

Sounds like a rosy glow of health to you? It probably does too to the chief executive of Newsquest, Paul Davidson, who pocketed a 21.5% pay increase last year as the company recorded profits nationally of £89m.

Sadly, that rosy glow has not surrounded your local staff for a long time now. The last time staff received any kind of pay rise was a humdrum offering in 2007. Since then, staff have had a pay freeze imposed. Nothing. Not even a keep-up-with-inflation rise. Not even a token rise as inflation sailed off into the distance. Not even a bonus. In 2009, staff were also asked to take a week off without pay to help the company get by.

In 2010, staff at Darlington and its regional offices have had a long-standing holiday day removed - a birthday day, that was always a pleasant perk, removed without consultation. Some thank you for taking the week off without pay when times were hard. In addition, our final salary pension scheme has been ended following a consultation in which it appears not one single concession has been made despite a huge number of suggestions and feedback from staff.

But what's brought us to the point of striking is pay and, more importantly, jobs.

With Christmas in sight, Newsquest began its festive round of putting people on the dole queue. Put at risk of redundancy were three assistant editors, a production editor, three reporters, an internet upload assistant, the newspaper librarian, two graphic artists and all but four of the sub-editing roles. The sub-editors are to be merged in this change, so no longer would the journalist designing your Northern Echo front page or your Darlington and Stockton Times community news be able to focus their attention on their area of expertise - and two of those jobs would go in the process. We are fighting to ensure there are no compulsory redundancies. We want to keep the skills and talent that is within the company working on your newspapers. And if the company insists that they can't afford to and Newsquest isn't making enough money? To quote Gracia: "Newsquest makes a lot of money."

On pay, after three years of pay freeze, we submitted a pay claim back in August, based on settling pay claims across four years of nothing, of 8%. Seems a lot looking at it in one number there, but that's just 2% per year. It's not our fault that Newsquest is building up a pay time bomb, that's their own doing.

We were told at the time that there was no likelihood of a pay rise for 2011. And then journalists at centres up and down the country, at Newsquest centres here, there and everywhere, started showing they had had enough. Strikes have already been held at our sister centres in Brighton and Southampton - and industrial action of one kind or another has been held or is about to be held at Newsquest centres up and down the land.

And suddenly a 2% pay offer has appeared on the table. Never mind the fact that's about half the rate of inflation. No movement on jobs. A refusal to our offer to even reduce the final amount of whatever pay settlement we do agree on in order to keep jobs.

We've said no to that pay offer. We don't feel that a company that "makes a lot of money" can get away with treating its staff this way for so long and still be pushing staff members out of the door who have worked for the company for many years.

So. A long story. But that's how we got to this point. We don't want to strike. We have to.

We're on Twitter

You can follow us on Twitter too now - add nujdarlington to keep up to date.

Newsquest's seedy used car salesman

THE latest Grey Cardigan column in the Press Gazette mentions our silent leader, Paul Davidson. If you haven't read it, here's the piece:

"Now I’m not saying that the gentlemen named above are completely to blame for the industry’s decline. We must also look at Sly Bailey of Trinity Mirror (former tele-sales girl; no previous Christmas misdemeanours known of) and Paul Davidson of Newsquest (who, judging by the way he refuses to communicate with the rest of the industry – or his own staff – was probably a Trappist monk. Actually, given his soaring salary at a time when the rest of his employees are on a pay freeze, plus the ending of their final salary pension scheme while his own pension payments have rocketed, I think we can safely put him down as a rather seedy used car salesman in a previous life)."

For the full column, visit Grey Cardigan

Backing from local MPs

Support for our action is coming thick and fast, from all quarters.

A number of the region's MPs have written to Newsquest and Gannett senior management. Many people will be aware of the letter which Stockton MP Alex Cunningham (a former chapel member and DST trainee) wrote to Craig Dubow - who passed it down to his chief skivvy Paul "20 per cent" Davidson to reply.

It would seem Mr Davidson either has no idea about what is going on at one of his newspapers, has no idea how newspapers work in general, is trying to mislead an MP or all of the above. Basically P Diddy Davidson told Mr Cunningham that no journalists were going in the redundancies at the Echo, you can imagine how the sub-editors, production editor, assistant editor and North Yorkshire reporter felt about that. It left a sour taste in the mouth to say the least - much like a £60 tannic bottle of wine.

Other honourable members to support us include Darlington's own Jenny Chapman. Not only has she signed the recent Early Day Motion expressing concern about Newsquest (along with North-East MPs Alex Cunningham and Roberta Blackman-Woods), she also mooted the suggestion that the Echo and DST would be better served being run as a community interest company. Interesting concept that. A newspaper being run for the benefit of its readership, with profits being ploughed back into maintaining a quality product and giving staff a living wage. Not sure P Diddy or Woolly Coates would get on board with that idea. I mean what about the shareholders or the bonuses. Can community interest companies give its execs jags to drive whilst laying off staff?

Also Darlington Trades Union Council is supporting our action tomorrow. We've already had messages of support from GMB and hopefully might see some of its members at the picket lines.

Cheers for now.
Oh, and here's those letters, first of all from Alex Cunningham: 
Dear Mr Dubow, 

I am extremely concerned at the latest round of job cuts which affect two newspappers that serve the people of my Stockton North constituency and the North-East of England. I hope you will personally intervene to ensure the integrity of those newspapers is not compromised. 

Despite a profitable operation by your Newsquest company in the North-East, eight more journalists' jobs are being axed on top of the many we have seen in recent years - this at a time when I understand Newsquest's Chief Executive has seen a 21.5% rise in his salary and a substantial increase in his pension pot.

I don't know how well you know The Northern Echo and Darlington & Stockton Times. They are both well respected in the community and it is important that their quality journalism is protected and that we have journalists to report the news to the standard which year on year wins many prizes for high standards. 

Working as a newspaper and radio journalist was my first career and I know there is no substitute for good reporters and writers on our local and regional newspapers. I hope you will act to protect what I am sure are gems in the crown of the Gannett empire. 

I very much look forward to receiving a positive response to my letter.

Yours sincerely, 
Alex Cunningham MP

And Paul Davidson's response: 

Dear Mr Cunningham,

Thank you for your letter of 15 December to Craig Dubow, CEO of Gannett. He has copied it to me to respond. 

Firstly, may I thank you for your interest in the Northern Echo and Darlington & Stockton Times. I am glad that you regard them as well respected in their communities. That is, and will remain our goal for these titles and all of the newspapers in our portfolio.

I clearly don't know the source of your information regarding the planned restructuring of editorial resources in the region, but suspect you do not have the correct picture. We are creating a new sub-editing team to serve both our daily and weekly titles. This will improve flexibility and, we hope, quality. These positions are, in effect, production roles rather than journalist positions. Under employment legistlation, we have to notify all employees whose positions might be at risk of redundancy. This number is significantly higher in this case than the number of positions which will finally be redundant.
Newsquest is proud of its products and brands and their place in the community. Please be assured that we will always strive to continue to serve these communities in the best way we can.
Your sincerely

Paul Davidson


Negotiations today failed to bring an adequate resolution to the dispute, particularly with regard to the threat of compulsory redundancies.

We will be on strike on Thursday and Friday. We will have a picket line outside the offices of The Northern Echo and D&S Times and wil be holding a protest march through the centre of Darlington at lunchtime.

Come on down and show your support - or send an email to if you're farther afield.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Support across the nation

Newsquest's mantra is that pay is negotiated locally. But pay freezes have been imposed nationally, and lifting the pay freeze has also come nationally - with centres here, there and everywhere starting to get the same 2% pay offer coming through.

Here's what the National Union of Journalists has to say about Newsquest:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Woolly Coates (No. 1)

FEELING down after the Christmas break? A touch gloomy now the dark days of winter are truly here? Perhaps it’s not the weather that’s to blame. Perhaps it’s the company’s “activity profits”. According to managing director David Coates in the latest edition of Griff – the official voice of Newsquest North-East – they don’t look good.
Hmmm . . . But just a minute. If our “activity profits” are down £100,000 on the previous December – that’s a drop of 67 per cent at a time when Government figures show the economy recovering – and “any further deterioration in our revenues is likely to result in the business making a loss”, then shouldn’t we be questioning the ability of the bloke who’s running the show?
How many photographers, reporters, sub-editors and graphic artists missed their targets in December? How many pages went out unfinished; how many stories unwritten; how many empty picture and graphic boxes appeared in the papers? Not a single one. Yet the managing director, who unlike the rest of us sets his own targets, is telling us his “activity profits” are down 67 per cent. And that’s his good news.
It’s no wonder there was a vote of no confidence in him. He’s making the wrong people redundant.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

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Carrying the banner

THIS is our banner. It was made several decades ago by people who believed in justice, fairness, integrity and professionalism. Those people felt so strongly about the career they had chosen that they commissioned this banner as a statement of their determination to defend that profession. I, for one, will be proud to march under it.

Our jobs have been devalued by three years of pay freeze and our profession is under threat as never before. We are being continuously undermined by people who don’t know the meaning of justice, fairness, integrity and professionalism – the very foundation blocks of our industry.

That’s why this fight is important. It’s not just about money and jobs, it’s about principles. It’s about Newsquest executives treating us with disdain and contempt, using us as a resource to fill their own bank accounts and expecting loyalty in return while they dismantle our industry.
The people who made this banner wouldn’t have put up with it. Neither should we.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

In it together?

This is the leaflet we'll be handing out around the streets of Darlington.

Are they all done taking? Not at all. Gannett has just issued its first round of executive pay for 2010, what's called restricted stock units - stock awards that don't need to be bought. Paul Davidson has been awarded RSUs to the value of $308,000 for 2010. That's just the first part of executive pay, more will follow. Source: