Fairfax journalists go on strike over plans to shift regional paper production to NZ

Journalists from Fairfax Media titles The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, The Sun-Herald, The Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury have gone on strike in response to the relocation of regional newspaper production to New Zealand.

According to journalists’ union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the majority of editorial staff walked out at around 5pm, and plan to remain away until Friday morning. A “skeleton staff” is battling to get tomorrow’s newspapers out, while the company’s websites are mainly being updated via AAP agency copy tonight.

Fairfax said in a statement that the company will continue to publish as usual, and was “disappointed” that its journalists have taken action. A Fairfax spokesman would not comment on how many journalists have gone on strike, nor how the newspapers would be published without journalists.

The strike follows the news that production of The Illawarra Mercury and The Newcastle Herald, and their associated weekly community titles, would be moved to New Zealand.

Under the proposed plan, Fairfax Editorial Services will take on production which, according to the company, “has a proven track record of excellence and reliability.”

Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said in a statement: “Understandably our people are unsettled when they see significant changes to the way the business has operated in the past. But as I have stated many times, Fairfax Media is on a journey of change. We are reshaping the way we work. We must continue to do so to thrive in the future.”

The release added, “management remains committed to consulting with affected employees and their representatives about the proposed changes.”

A statement from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance said:

“Editorial staff at Fairfax sites in Melbourne, Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle have this afternoon voted to strike for 36 hours in protest over the company’s plan to move some editorial production to New Zealand.

“’Sub-editors are journalists and the heart of the newsroom. They should always be embedded in the community to enable the newspaper to tell the local story accurately,’ Alliance federal secretary Chris Warren said.”

The union said that the strike action was the decision of staff committees and it did not organise it.

Comments


  1. Get ready
    30 May 12
    8:16 pm

  2. In a few months this wont raise an eyebrow compared to what’s coming across the whole sector

  3. And then,
    30 May 12
    8:41 pm

  4. I heard Fairfax NZ will work an extra 36hrs. Good onya battlers.

  5. S.A.W.
    30 May 12
    9:31 pm

  6. This move is hardly surprising. As a former long term employee of Fairfax I know that their way of thinking is to cut staff as soon as the figures look ordinary.
    I have seen first hand the decisions made by Vic regional management in relation to staff losses and cost cutting, and it baffles me how these people got themselves into management positions.
    Getting yourself into a position and then surrounding yourself with “Yes” men is the flavour of the month at the moment, and unfortunately it means that many hard working and talented people get thrown out along the way.
    A great example is the downsizing of IT specialists in regional Vic – getting 2 people to do the work of 6 looks great on the books and makes for a great bonus for the decision makers – but at what cost to the product and the people left trying to put together a quality newspaper?
    Let’s hope that Gina realises that Fairfax is dead from the head down, and starts to axe the people who have put the company in this position in the first place.

  7. Nuts
    31 May 12
    7:45 am

  8. The really weird thing with Fairfax is that they are piling on costs where they add zero value (or worse) and carving into the areas where they might have a future. The Corbett/Hywood team has so far hired at least four consultant teams at vast expense. Result = zip. They have piled on layers of super-chiefs in editorial. Result = falling circulations, minimal cost reductions. They have had for some time vast numbers of underemployted “digital” people in FD, none of whom appear to have the vaguest idea of what a news medium actually does to become valuable to readers. Lately, they have taken to filling their metros with over-promoted columnists with exaggerated profiles who are largely unread. And they appeared to have turned the AFR into a grungy pamphlet for the HR NIcholls Society.
    It seems fair to assume that a) their next full year profit result will be shocking and b) Gina is set to blow a heap of cash.

  9. The Fence
    31 May 12
    9:02 am

  10. On one hand I agree that the top heavy management of Fairfax is too much for any company to handle. It’s slow, clunky, inexperienced and bonus driven. On the other hand journalists have been doing a pretty slack job of journalising. They fail to add their unique value, reporting the net, cut and pasting media releases, reporting on the results of TV shows and barely checking sources to reveal the true story, which is what readers want. hmmmm I don’t see the journos winning this one.

  11. Darren
    31 May 12
    10:20 am

  12. Can someone please remind me what a ‘newspaper’ is again?????

  13. Dodge
    31 May 12
    11:21 am

  14. COME ON GINA

  15. Schumpeter
    31 May 12
    11:24 am

  16. @The Fence: you have a point. But the obvious problem is the top heavy “leadership”. If the board and management aren’t noticing that the product is not actually good, how will the reporters ever get the msg? It looks very much like a parade of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
    Presmably someone will emerge at some point with a digital news product that actually does what the target (“AB”) audience wants to pay for. But you’d not be looking at Fairfax or News for the people to do that.

  17. BAD
    31 May 12
    11:37 am

  18. @S.A.W couldn’t agree more! As a former employee I got out at the right time just when all the changes started happening.
    Never have I worked in an organisation with so many incompetent people promoted to managerial positions.. its scares me. No wonder the company is declining and losing money. The day Hywood (who started as a journo!) took over is the day the day Fairfax died. Definitely time for Gina to step in!

  19. Devil's advocaat
    31 May 12
    11:48 am

  20. @Darren

    It’s that thing you read every day on your phone and tablet and your friends share links to in social.

    Doesn’t have to be on paper.

    We all get the point.

    !!!!!

  21. Notmyrealname
    31 May 12
    11:55 am

  22. Can anyone spot the difference between the the level and quality of content of today’s SMH compared to yesterday’s? ‘not sure the journos are doing themselves a favour. Maybe we’ll notice more tomorrow.

  23. Mick
    31 May 12
    11:58 am

  24. At least it is outsourced to New Zealand… that makes a change!

  25. mumbrella
    31 May 12
    12:05 pm

  26. Hi notmyrealname,

    I suspect that most of the copy for today’s edition was filed before the 5pm walkout. With subbing already being outsourced to Pagemasters, the production stage was probably less impacted. I suspect that tomorrow’s edition will be a battle.

    Cheers,

    Tim – Mumbrella

  27. Ex
    31 May 12
    5:47 pm

  28. @Notmyrealname: Takes a few days usually as there’s often a bunch of stuff in the queue. And, to be blunt, none of them has been exactly knocking us out with news in any case.