Newcastle Herald staff strike as Fairfax Media proposes to cut 69 jobs across the Hunter

Fairfax_Media_logo1-234x145Newcastle Herald editorial staff have staged a walkout in response to Fairfax Media’s proposal to cut 69-full-time equivalent positions, including 46-full time editorial jobs, across the Newcastle and Hunter region.

The union for journalists the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has confirmed union members at the Newcastle Herald have voted to strike until 9am tomorrow in response to the cuts which will see 37 full time jobs axed from the paper.

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MEAA media director Katelin McInerney said in a statement: “Once again, Fairfax is savaging staff numbers in a short-sighted cost-cutting exercise that will weaken the quality of the journalism that can be produced by the masthead. The severity of these cuts is devastating. Fewer journalists means less local news. It weakens the masthead and means it will be unable to keep the local community informed. Local voices, local issues, local news – these are all lost.

“We call on the company to act smarter. Engage with staff to find sensible ways to reduce costs and work better without undermining the newspaper. Weakening a masthead is a grave disservice to the local community and only goes to make a bad situation worse. The Newcastle and Hunter Valley editorial staff, journalists and photographers and production staff, have years of experience that is a valuable resource that should not be blithely dismissed.”

Fairfax Media has been approached for comment on the strike.

The proposal comes two weeks after Fairfax announced it had made a profit of $83.2m for the last financial year, driven mainly by its Domain business.

It also comes on the heels of the media company confirming the loss of 25 full-time equivalent positions across its suburban papers in Sydney and 16 positions at The Land last week.

Staff at the impacted titles, including Newcastle Herald, The Maitland Mercury, Newcastle & Lake Macquarie Star, Port Stephens Examiner, Lakes Mail, Cessnock Advertiser, Lower Hunter Star, Dungog Chronicle, Singleton Argus, Muswellbrook Chronicle, Scone Advocate, Hunter Valley News and the Hunter Valley and North Coast Town & Country, were briefed on the changes today.

Under the proposal The Maitland Mercury will move from publishing five days a week Monday to Friday to three days a week while The Singleton Argus will move from publishing twice a week to a weekly edition.

The company expects to call for voluntary redundancies of about 69-full time equivalent positions across the region, including about 46 full-time jobs in newsrooms mainly in editorial production, management, and photography, with the remaining redundancies to come from administration and sales.

Fairfax is almost halfway through an 18-month overhaul of its ACM business which will see new technology and training introduced for editorial and sales staff.

The changes will see the company introduce a new digital-first publishing system, new equipment and skills for journalists and sales staff, new ways of working and refreshed designs for the newspapers.

Director of ACM John Angilley  said in a statement: “This is a significant modernisation for our newspapers and websites. We’re upskilling our journalists and sales staff so they can get even closer to their community and serve them using the latest technology and new ways of working.

“Embracing these changes is vital to ensure our mastheads remain the most trusted source of news and information for many years to come.”

Recently appointed group managing editor Chad Watson and group sales manager Jo Dryden will lead the restructured editorial and sales teams.

Consultation with employees is now under way.

In July  47 full-time jobs were cut from Fairfax’s Illawarra and South Coast newspapers and a restructure for the company’s regional titles in Victoria in March.

Miranda Ward


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