Argus journalists vote to strike

Posted On 10 Nov 2010 at 4:54 pm

Journalists at The Argus newspaper have voted to go on strike next week over pay and the latest round of redundancies.

The National Union of Journalists organised the ballot, with 82.8 per cent of members taking part.

Of those, 91 per cent voted to strike.

The strike is scheduled to take place next Thursday and Friday (18 and 19 November).

The Spearhead

Next Friday (19 November) is the last day for six news sub-editors working at the title which serves Brighton and Hove from its offices in Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury.

Their jobs are being made redundant, with the work being taken on by three subs in Southampton at the offices of the Southern Daily Echo.

The Argus closed its press hall last year, with the printing now also carried out in Southampton.

Like The Argus, the Echo is owned by Newsquest, a subsidiary of the American publisher Gannett.

Newsquest has frozen staff pay for more than two years.

Staff at the Echo were on strike yesterday and today, with another 48-hour strike scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week too (16 and 17 November).

One Argus journalist, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s high time we Argonauts stood up to the disgraceful management which keeps taking from Brighton and not giving anything back.

“Job after job has been moved to Southampton in a bid to scrimp and save.

“The bosses blame difficult trading conditions but meanwhile they boast about making massive profit margins – about 20 per cent – and give the chief executive a £100,000 21 per cent pay rise.

“Enough is enough.”

Newsquest Sussex declined to comment.

  1. Bill Meredith Reply

    What a shame. The Argus was once a superb EVENING paper. Greed and turning it into a morning paper have ruined it.
    I am amazed it is as good as it is considering staff levels and morale.

  2. dave jones Reply

    good luck to the journalists.
    my job at the council nursery is on the line so i know what they’re going through.
    Having a local paper,with enough local reporters to go out and give a voice to the lives and concerns of local people is part of democracy.
    Otherwise, our lives are reflected only by big institutions via PR company press releases to distant newsrooms

  3. Tony Greenstein Reply

    Yes good luck to all striking Argus journalists. The Argus has declined rapidly in recent years and under its current editor, Michael Beard, who has become just a cypher for Newsquest bosses.

    There are no investigative reporters at the Argus anymore. No one covers the courts. When I recently sent out a press release about a local Employment Tribunal I was told that the idea of an Argus journalist covering a 2 day hearing was out of the question. 6 years ago a reporter sat through all 6 days of a hearing.

    I was told over a year ago by a Tory councillor that the Argus was going to relocate to Southampton. When I put that to a journalist on the Argus he denied it. Now it is all too true, having already shifted their printing to Southampton.

    Years ago we had the Brighton & Hove Gazette now there is the pathetic Leader. The reality is that Brighton & Hove have no local paper any longer and I would urge people to boycott it. An area the size of Brighton & Hove is entitled to more than a free sheet.

  4. Rostrum Reply

    The question is will anyone notice..

  5. Paul Smith Reply

    I worked at The Argus until the press was closed and moved to Southampton and the production of its weekly titles followed. The writing was on the wall. It is Newsquest’s (and its American owner’s Gannett’s) demand to maintain its (very healthy) profit levels no matter what the cost to journalism, its papers, or the towns they serve that is to blame for the demise of The Argus and the loss of hard-working and talented people’s livelihoods. For Newsquest a newspaper is a “product” as if they were making nuts and bolts. They have no regard for their communities or understanding of journalism and the role of newspapers. While the Argus subs were being made redundant, after having suffered a pay freeze for two years and having their pension scheme scrapped, Chief Executive Paul Davison, who was earning £501,234 in 2008 was awarded another huge £100,000+ pay rise.

    Below is a piece by Roy Greenslade on The Guardian website on the planned strike at The Argus.

    “I understand that last week’s statement by Gannett’s chief financial officer, Gracia Martore, that “Newsquest makes a lot of money”, has stiffened resolve among the journalists.

    Here’s a reminder of her exact words:
    “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.”

    Gannett’s UK operation achieved pre-tax profits of £88.5m for 2009 on turnover of £365.6m, while the operating profit for Newsquest was reported to be £71.7m for 2009, compared with an operating loss of £462,000 in 2008.
    During 2009, Newsquest cut more than 300 editorial jobs, reducing the number from 1,936 to 1,609, a fall of 17%.

    A former member of the Argus staff, who remains concerned about the falling coverage of affairs in Brighton and Hove, and the surrounding areas, is sympathetic to the plight of his ex-colleagues.

    He writes: “At what point do the company’s shareholders ask, ‘We’ve squeezed out all we can and the pips are squeaking. If we squeeze any more this won’t be a newspaper anymore.’
    “There is ‘rationalising’ and ‘streamlining’ in the interests of viability and then there is the subjugation of everything to the vagaries of the ever-moving dividend targets.
    “If it’s now just all about profit, why do Newsquest even bother producing newspapers? They might as well knock out smartphones.”

  6. Andrew Cloke Reply

    I used to work as a photographer at the Argus from 2000 until2003 and loved it. Back then it had the dynamic Simon Bradshaw as editor, Richard Taylor on picture desk and ran 3 editions a day!
    Stories were many and varied and the picture desk was allowed to do features and picture lead stories. The Night final meant that sometimes the Argus could break major stories before the Nats and was respected by them. It was a good training ground for cub reporters and had a great sense of team spirit.
    I returned for six months in 2005 and already the paper was a shadow of it’s former self. Michael Beard came from a Hastings weekly and knows nothing about running a daily, only how to suck up to management and shareholders, and commands no respect from his staff as none like him.
    I miss the old Argus and wish Newsquest would wake up and realise what a valuable asset they are destroying

  7. Albionlover Reply

    I have read so many negative comments about this strike and the paper.
    Staff at The Argus work 50-60 hour weeks for wages lower than many would believe. Trainees at The Argus earn £17,500 with senior reporters on £20,000. In this time of cuts many say suck it up that they haven’t had a pay rise in two years. Well someone on £17,500 has effectively had a 10% pay cut in those two years whilst working all the hours god sends whilst a Newquest director gets a £100,000 pay rise. Is that fair? There are some things The Argus has done that I accept puts people off. But if you don;t like the content TELL THE EDITOR. Write letters saying what you want to read. I have read comments saying no one will notice the strike and even notice if the paper collapsing altogether. Well you will notice when you want a someone to run a story on a local event, when you get an unfair parking ticket, when you’re local councillor fails to show up to any meetings, when you need publicity for a charity event or even when there is a serious assault in the city. If you think The Guardian will pick up these stories you are living in a fantasy world. Local papers are vital for democracy and how can Brighton and Hove compare to other cities if it doesn’t have a local paper.

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