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.