Fairfax Media management has said will dock striking journalist’s pay, describing today’s industrial action over planned job cuts as “unlawful”.
Journalists across Fairfax Media newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, WA Today and Brisbane Times, walked off the job at around 2.30pm today, and are planning to strike until Monday.
Staff are protesting planned job cuts across news and business in its Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms which would see the equivalent of 12.5% of newsroom positions axed.
Alymer: strike action is unlawful.
In an email to staff following a stop work meeting, Sean Alymer, Fairfax Media editorial director, told staff: “Today, after we announced a proposal to reduce costs across News and Business in Sydney and Melbourne, some journalists took strike action following authorised stop work meetings.
“This strike action is unlawful. When employees take unlawful industrial action we have no choice but to dock their pay.”
Alymer said no staff should “feel pressured” to take industry action, stating he was “disappointed” in the industrial action.
The move by Fairfax Media to condemn the industrial action is not surprising with Fairfax Media taking similar action in previous industrial action.
During today’s stop-working meeting, Aylmer told staff that Fairfax currently produces some 9000 pieces of content a month, with half of that content being produced by contributors and freelancers, under the new plan this would reduce to 6000 pieces of content, with the ratio of staff-to-contributor content remaining unchanged.
Aylmer also told the room that journalists would need to focus on “effective” content, meaning stories which achieve strong online traffic.
The statement about “effective” content drew an incendiary response from journalists, who expressed concern about management’s focus on “click bait”, with staff noting that powerful and important journalism didn’t always drive clicks on Fairfax websites.
In a statement issued this afternoon Fairfax said it will continue to publish its newspapers and websites “as usual”.
Miranda Ward and Nic Christensen
Sean Alymer’s email to staff in full:
Today, after we announced a proposal to reduce costs across News and Business in Sydney and Melbourne, some journalists took strike action following authorised stop work meetings.
This strike action is unlawful. When employees take unlawful industrial action we have no choice but to dock their pay.
No one should feel pressured to take industrial action at any time. And it’s wrong for anyone to pressure someone else to take unlawful industrial action.
We are disappointed that industrial action occurred at the beginning of the consultation process.