Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Swingeing cuts' slammed

This is our latest press release on the dispute, issued to local media tonight. Another piece of news you won't read in the pages of The Press tomorrow...
Members of the National Union of Journalists at The Press and Gazette & Herald have vowed to fight compulsory redundancies after the newspapers' owners Newsquest announced the loss of eight jobs in the editorial department.

The swingeing cuts, which follow on from severe job losses across York's daily newspaper just 16 months ago, have been made as the NUJ chapel at York is still locked in a battle over fair pay.

Ironically, on the very day the NUJ entered talks with conciliation service ACAS over trying to resolve their nine-month long dispute over pay, management revealed the shock news.

There are also job losses elsewhere at the Walmgate offices with cuts in the pre-press department, among the drivers, cleaners and engineers and also in the press hall. All told, job losses amount to about a tenth of the 200-plus Newsquest York workforce.

Journalists voiced their anger at the cuts which, if implemented, will weaken the proud and distinguished traditions of a newspaper which has been operating in the city for 125 years.

"It is not as if Newsquest York are not making money. They raked in a profit of £4.3 million last year, but again they are imposing cuts on a workforce which is being dictated to by its American owners Gannett," said NUJ joint Fathers of Chapel Tony Kelly and Sam Southgate.

"As journalists we are proud to serve the community with integrity and dedication, but it is obvious the employers do not share that same faith by yet again hacking at those people who work tirelessly for the company.

"We are certain the quality of the company's core product will be fatally damaged. These planned job losses represent utter disregard for the community of York whom we are privileged to serve and will inevitably lead to a drop in its standing.

"We are totally opposed to the idea of compulsory redundancies and are prepared to fight them as much as possible. If these losses are implemented they will drive another nail into the well-being and reputation of The Press and that will be to the detriment of its loyal readership."

The axe swings again

Those who thought Newsquest had already cut its York operations back to the bone were clearly mistaken. In the face of the economic downturn and anticipating a fall in its profits due to slacker advertising revenue, the company is once again planning to cut jobs.

We learned last Friday - a day after a regal visit from Newsquest chairman and chief executive Paul Davidson - that 18 of our colleagues are to be made redundant - nine van drivers, two cleaners, two printers and five pre-press staff. Today, just minutes before chapel reps were due to begin mediation with ACAS over our outstanding pay claim, management dropped a bombshell for the company's journalists.

Editor Kevin Booth told staff of plans to axe eight journalists' posts. A current reporting vacancy will not be filled, making a total of nine redundancies. No details were provided about which departments will be hit, but the editor said photographers, graphic artists and admin staff (all with virtually no union members) would be safe.

At a chapel meeting held later that day, members were rightly furious about the planned cuts, which are being replicated at Newsquest centres across the country. Two years ago, the company made nine editorial staff redundant but there was no decline in workloads, on the contrary. It seems we can expect the same scenario this time.

Chapel members committed themselves to opposing any compulsory redundancies and mounting a campaign to save quality local journalism in York and North Yorkshire, which we believe is being destroyed by Newsquest's slash and burn policies. We will be fighting for every one of our union colleagues who is under threat and making sure management engage in full assessment, consultation and representation as provided for in law.

We'll have more on our campaign soon...