Fairfax journalists stage protest rallies against ‘shocking’ outsourcing plans

Fairfax journalists, who have gone on strike over plans to outsource newspaper production, are staging rallies in Sydney, Woollongong and Newcastle today and tomorrow to protest against the proposals.

Around 800 journalists have taken industrial action, with support from the journalists’ union the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, leaving skeleton staff in ‘exempt positions’ – those who stay behind to work in strike situations – to produce the papers over the next 24 hours.

The strike is scheduled to end on Friday morning.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, The Sun-Herald, The Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury are the mastheads hit by the strikes.

The exempt positions include the editor, deputy editor, chief sub-editor, head of design and head of photography to write copy and layout pages. Empty pages will also be filled with copy from news wires.

Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood – a former journalist – is not believed to be among those filing copy.

“Senior staff are taking themselves off mahogany row back to the trenches,” said Marcus Strom, The Herald’s deputy foreign editor and chair of the union committee, who is leading the rally in Sydney.

Fairfax journalists gather at the rally in Sydney

“We’re surprised by the decision [to outsource production],” Strom told Mumbrella. “We knew there would be changes, but to offshore so many jobs has shocked us – which is why people have walked out so readily.”

“This part of the editorial review process at Fairfax has been delivered to us without consultation. And it has gone against where we thought we were heading. We were told after the outsourcing of production staff to Pagemasters a year ago that this sort of thing would not be repeated.”

In May last year, Fairfax outsourced hundreds of sub-editing jobs to AAP-owned production house Pagemasters, which prompted a flash mob protest organised by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Fairfax declined to comment further.

Strom continued: “As a news gathering entity in the age of online and video storytelling, you need a dynamic production support team on the ground to get stories out across those platforms. As journalists, we are gagging to embrace this sort of reporting. But to do it well, you need good production support. Removing that from our newsroom when production was outsourced to Pagemasters, has hampered our ability to fully embrace digital storytelling.”

Meanwhile, made three redundancies yesterday, with a technology writer, a news producer and a picture editor losing their jobs.


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