The NUJ chapel at the Coventry Telegraph are balloting for strike action in a stand against inadequate editorial staffing levels.
A packed chapel meeting voted unanimously for the move after exhausting the newspaper's internal disputes procedures in a long-running row over non-replacement of leavers or long delays in getting vacancies filled.
Forty chapel members, including those at the Hinckley Times and Times weekly series in Coventry, will get their ballot papers next week as the planned sale of the Midland titles owned by Trinity Mirror - expected to be to a private equity-backed management buyout - reaches its climax.
The decision to ballot was taken after a deal brokered by Acas was rejected by the chapel. The number of reporters has dropped steadily over the last two years to stand at just eight in Coventry and three for the districts - the chapel has demanded that this rise to at least 12 and four respectively. However, there is also concern at staffing levels on the weeklies, among the Telegraph's photographic and sub-editing teams and the sports desk.
Chapel MoC Lucy Lynch, in a letter to managing director John Bills, who is leading the management buyout bid for the titles which also include the Birmingham Post, Mail Sunday Mercury and those in Midland Weekly Media, said: "This is a culmination of years of frustration over non-replacement of staff. In that time we 've had a series of staff leave and either not been replaced or only been replaced after long delays.
"The result is increased pressure on remaining staff and serious threats to the quality of the product."
NUJ President Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is what our Stand Up for Journalism campaign is all about – taking a stand against inadequate staffing levels which threaten quality. If newsrooms don’t have the resources they cannot maintain high standards. Members at Coventry are leading the way in showing that journalists themselves must stand up to defend quality since too many employers now only care about the bottom line”.