21 July 2011

Cr-Ed-it where it's due

After a couple of days sustained tweeting and sharing of my blog-post, Ed Miliband MP finally decided this afternoon to release a short statement in support of the work of striking NUJ members at South Yorkshire Newspapers group.

He said: “I hope the issues facing staff at the Free Press and the South Yorkshire Times are solved soon. They are great local papers and I have always appreciated the work they do, with their campaigns and local stories. A strong local press is a big part of our community in Doncaster.”

He also tweeted a similar message at our chapel - marking him out from nearly all other mainstream politicians who have so far failed to acknowledge the dispute.

Some very welcome assistance from top journalism blogger Jon Slattery no doubt led to the story being picked up by Hold the Front Page which definitely helped shift things along. Thanks must also go to all NUJ comrades for re-tweeting and not letting the story go away. It goes to show the pressure of social media means politicians can no longer hide away from the real issues facing people.

We were never really expecting Ed to turn up and man the pickets, or even utter a word in favour of industrial action. But it would obviously be nice if he did.

With things changing in the media as they are, hopefully the idea of taking industrial action in the UK will stop being portrayed by the national press and broadcast news as a deviant and unusual act. If Ed had supported the recent June 30 action, I suspect he would be riding even higher in the popularity stakes than he has been thanks to his good position on News International.

There will inevitably be more strikes - except they will be strikes with far more public support than before as more and more people reach the point of realising direct action is the only way to protect what they have. By supporting some key struggles of principle, Ed could define himself away from the tired and discredited neo-liberal consensus and move the whole British political discourse into a new era - standing with those brave people prepared to stand up to the rich bullies who control our lives.

That's a debate for another day. The main thing is he recognises the vital work NUJ members perform for their community.

As it stands now, the South Yorkshire NUJ all-out indefinite chapel strike in Doncaster, Mexborough and Selby is making waves. We have overwhelming public support and today were the main item on BBC Radio Sheffield's breakfast show. We have released a bootleg newsletter in all three main areas of the strike with plans for much more. We have totally and utterly shocked the management who had clearly initially thought the strike was to be a narrowly supported protest that would quickly fizzle out in the July rain. Instead the sun is shining, and we are strong.

The bosses are now facing up to the prospect of a week of trying to fill another pile of newspapers, during the "silly season" holiday period with hardly any journalists and no "stock" items from the week before to back them up, They have reportedly even stopped using unpaid teenage work experiences to fill the paper up after NUJ pressure.

The ball is now very much in the court of the management to come to us to reopen negotiations. Early this morning we made it clear to them we would be happy to enter any talks they wished to put to the chapel formally. We await a response.

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