Fairfax Media staff pass no-confidence motion in management but won’t strike over 30 redundancies


Staff at Fairfax Media’s The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review have passed a no-confidence motion in Fairfax management during a stop-work meeting this morning.

Fairfax staff in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and the state bureau held stop-work meetings this morning in protest of up to 30 journalists being made forcibly redundant after the newspaper publisher failed to attract enough voluntary redundancies.

While staff will not take industrial action in protest of the cuts, Mumbrella understands a no confidence motion was passed as staff at the SMH and the AFR believe the company’s management has a cost-cutting strategy for the newspaper publisher and not a revenue strategy.

Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said he was “not aware at this stage” of the no-confidence motion.

“No one likes likes redundancies, I certainly feel for everyone involved in that process. The industry is changing, people source their news and information in different ways,” he said.

“The economics are very different to what they were. If we don’t respond with at times tough decisions, we won’t secure the sort of journalism we will value down the track.”

When questioned on the potential damage the redundancies pose to the Fairfax brand, Hywood said:” What we do at Fairfax, we value the quality of what we do. People say is journalism going to be damaged? What we say is we focus on delivering the best quality journalism we possibly can and we have a belief that we have quality staff that can deliver that well into the future.

“The model changes, the numbers change but the commitment doesn’t and our investment into making sure that continues has not and will not change.”

A MEAA spokesperson told Mumbrella: “This is a very sad day at Fairfax. We are extremely disappointed that management is going ahead with these forced redundancies after MEAA proposed a number of alternative cost savings that would have significantly reduced the head count.

“Some very loyal, long-serving employees are being shown the door by the company. Management are going about this in a way that is causing understandable distress among those being made redundant and their colleagues who will keep their jobs.

“It is hard to see how Fairfax management can maintain their commitment to quality journalism with such a considerable reduction in editorial numbers and experience.”

It is understood 30 staff have been made redundant; however, the MEAA is unable to confirm the figure.

Union organiser Katelin McInerney told Mumbrella: “The real concern that members on the ground have is that a loss of this size should be dealt with through a voluntary process and we don’t want to see people who want to stay with the company leave.

“The view from the journalists is it is very difficult to see how the company and newsrooms can continue to provide the calibre of journalism the readership expects whilst absorbing these cuts. We had hoped the company would look elsewhere and find other savings other than cutting front-line content producers.”

The Guardian is reporting illustrator Rocco Fazzari was made redundant on Monday as was veteran Age cartoonist John Spooner and Australian Financial Review reporter Fiona Smith.

There has been speculation controversial columnist Paul Sheehan would also be targeted for forced redundancy.

Fairfax Media announced plans in March to cut 120 full-time jobs, revising that figure to 100 last month as the company, which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, opened a voluntary redundancy program.

When the job cuts were announced, Fairfax Media staff went on strike over a weekend in a move described by the publisher as ‘unlawful’.

The strike action is now being investigated by the office of the fair work ombudsman which is seeking names, phone numbers and addresses of every person who took part in the action, according to the MEAA.

“This investigation highlights concerns long held by the union movement about the adequacy of Australia’s laws to protect the freedom of collective action by workers,” the union said in a statement.

“This investigation by the FWO will not deter MEAA from campaigning to protect jobs and quality journalism at Fairfax’s publications.”

Last week Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said it is “inevitable” the company will close its weekday Metro masthead print editions in favour of “weekend only or more targeted printing”.

A Fairfax Media spokesperson said “no comment”.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.