More than 70 NUJ members stood proud in solidarity outside the Yorkshire Post Newspapers building in Leeds this morning at the start of a four-day strike over protecting regional newspapers and journalists’ jobs at Johnston Press titles.
The atmosphere on the picket line was buzzing, with groups of chapel members at four places around the building.
Fittingly, the first person on the picket line was Tony Harney, the longest-serving journalist on the Yorkshire Evening Post, who arrived at 7am, just as dawn was breaking over the building.
Pickets kept high on chocolate thanks to donations from Ptarmigan PR and Morrish & Co solicitors.
YPN managing director Chris Green was unable to keep his distance. After watching the pickets from the safety of a doorway for a few moments, he walked across the car park to talk to union reps.
Standing behind the plastic tape that he’d had put up yesterday, Mr Green appeared surprised that the strikers had been contacted by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall – he said would be meeting them a few minutes later – and seem pleased by the magnaniminity and high spirits of those standing outside the line in the cold.
Pickets claimed success when a driver from Group 4 Security called his own union for guidance and then decided against crossing the line.
A logistics delivery van also departed fully laden when another driver found the warehouse at the back of the building deserted.
Stuart Bruce, from Leeds PR consultancy Wolfstar, said he would be Twittering in support of the action and had five responses within minutes.
Other messages of goodwill came from Yorkshire author GP Taylor and actor Sam West, who has strong links with Sheffield.
MD Chris Green said: “People who are writing to me are saying the regional press is important to them. How can you argue with that? It’s important to everybody.”
Chapel members are now getting ready for a 4pm rally, to be addressed by the NUJ’s new deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
Pickets were also due to be entertained by Leeds band ShakinOuts – who have written two songs especially for the strike.
“The age of the protest song is by no means dead,” said chapel secretary Richard Edwards, as he rushed for the train to go to talk to union colleagues at The Star in Sheffield.
The early pickets also found themselves featured on the BBC’s Look North programme, ITV’s Calendar News and Radio Aire.