Group-wide strike unlikely at Johnston Press

The proposed group-wide National Union of Journalists strikes across Johnston Press look to have hit the buffers.

According to a report on HoldtheFrontPage, plans for industrial action look set to be abandoned as a number of centres across JP are unwilling to go on strike.

The strike, planned over objections to the company’s new content management system ATEX, had originally been due to take place on May 19, but had to be called off when JP obtained a last-minute injunction. The company claimed it did not actually employ any staff and that instead they were the responsibility of a number of subsidiary companies.

The original ballot had resulted in a 70 per cent yes vote for strike action, although only 346 NUJ members took part.

But now, although militancy remains high in the north of the country where the system has not yet been introduced, support seems to have waned among chapels in the south and midlands.

The NUJ is uncertain it could persuade members to take part in a national strike and will instead have to look to individual chapels to strike, notably those in Sheffield, Doncaster, Scarborough, Preston, Blackpool and South Shields.

Chris Morley, NUJ northern regional organiser, said it was up to individual chapels to decide what to do.

He said: “Nothing was decided as chapels have to consult with their own memberships and it is very much up to individual chapels on what they want to do, so any decisions will be made by them.

“Union members are unhappy about the rollout of ATEX across JP, which has led to a reduction in the number of sub-editors needed and claims of increased workloads for remaining staff.”

An insider at one of JP’s papers in the south told The Blog that support for a group-wide strike was waning in the region.

Our source said: “When the originally strike action was proposed a number of centres were already thinking of opting out and the company launched an offensive to stop those in two minds.

“A mixture of incentives – such as the lifting of the pay freeze – and threats – one managing director was heard to say, ‘they’ll really suffer if they go through with this’ – had persuaded many people it wasn’t worth it. Even if the May 19 strike had gone ahead a lot of people in this region would still have gone into work.

“Now the desire is even more muted. A lot of the more militant workers were among those made redundant and young trainees in their first job haven’t got the stomach for a fight.

“More importantly the system has bedded down a bit now and people have got used to it. There are still major problems, but there is a realisation ATEX is going nowhere. If we went on strike the company still would not get rid of this new system. It cost too much and JP doesn’t have money to throw away.

“It’s a case of get your head down and get on with your work.”

Source: HoldtheFrontPage

State of Play: Victory for JP?

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