Fairfax staff strike over redundancies

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 4.20.05 PMMore than 600 staff at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have gone on strike for 24 hour following the company’s announcement today it will make major redundancies across its editorial production, lifestyle and photographic sections. It is understood staff at the Canberra Times, union members at the Australian Financial Review and also the staffs of regional publications Illawarra Mercury and Newcastle Herald have also walked out in solidarity with the colleagues at their sister papers.

The strike is effective immediately and sees staff walk out until 3pm tomorrow afternoon after a near unanimous vote of the memberships at both major mastheads. Ben Butler, deputy president of the media branch of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which represents journalists photographers and subeditors, said the employees believed they had to draw “a line in the sand”.

“We think this is a the final line in the sand, we have to defend the final core principles of doing journalism at Fairfax Media,” Butler told Mumbrella.”Without our photographic colleagues and our production staff we are not a proper news organisation we are a contractor who buys in news.

“We don’t want that to happen and are determined to do all we can to protect the integrity of our work.”

The redundancies which were announced to staff at Fairfax by Allen Williams, managing director of Australian Publishing Media (APM) this morning would see more than 70 positions go from its newspaper arm, with key parts of the newspapers’s sub-editing likely to move to New Zealand while more than 30 positions in photographic would go as a result of using more pictures from Getty Images.

Photographers at The Age protesting the redundancies.

Photographers at The Age protesting the redundancies.

This would leave Fairfax with just five photographers in Sydney and five in Melbourne.

The move has angered many staff with one photographer telling Mumbrella they were “gutted” by the announcement.

Another Fairfax reporter said: “The question is certainly asked: what is the core of a newsroom? If they can outsource photographers then they are willing to basically outsource everything.

“What do we keep? Is it the investigations team? Sport? At what point is everything bar the newsdesk outsourced?”‘

It is understood that Fairfax management has sent a letter to staff noting that the industrial action is unprotected and that penalties include termination.

Journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald have also described how editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir addressed the newsroom in an “emotional” exchange with staff this morning.

“Darren called all the staff together and actually got quite emotional himself. He wasn’t crying or anything but you could see he was visibly shaken by having to tell us the news,” said one journalist.

“There were certainly tears in the newsroom, some staffers ran out crying.The photographers were all pretty emotional especially when they realised half of them were going to go.

“You can’t outsource all the photographic stuff. You need to be able to tell the photographer what you need for the story.”

There are also claims by staff that the company has acted in bad faith following the redundancies of 2012 which saw between 300-400 editorial positions go from the publisher.

“We did the 2012 negotiations in good faith and now this,” said one senior Fairfax reporter.

“In the sections we seem to be moving towards a more contributor based model for areas like food, wine etc. but where does that stop? Is every journalist eventually going to be a freelancer?”

The Brisbane Times staff have not walked out but said they “wholly supported” the actions of their colleagues and would not be involved in the creation of “any content not for the exclusive use of the Brisbane Times.”

A  spokesperson for Fairfax said: “The company will continue to publish across print and digital as usual.”

Nic Christensen 


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