MEAA considering taking ‘disrespectful’ ACM to Fair Work Commission over job cuts

The decision by Australian Community Media (ACM) to close four of its printing plants and cease production on several of its print titles has been slammed by the media industry’s union as disrespectful and difficult to reconcile.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) is considering taking ACM to the Fair Work Commission over the decision, citing the publisher’s failure to consult with it as a breach of the company’s enterprise agreement.

The decision was communicated to staff by email on Tuesday, but ACM failed to advise which titles would be impacted by the cuts. MEAA said. The publisher has 170 regional titles, 14 of which are daily and will be safe from the closures.

Director of MEAA Media, Neill Jones, said staff had been kept in the dark by management and only became aware of the decision at the same time as the public. The Canberra Times, an ACM title, was the first to break the news.

“ACM management is legally required to consult with staff representatives, including MEAA, before undertaking any major changes to operations,” Jones said.

“That hasn’t taken place and all management has done by this announcement today is create more uncertainty among employees about where cuts will be made.

“Management needs to detail as soon as possible where the cuts will be felt.”

MEAA also said it was unclear whether the publisher would be eligible for the Job Keeper subsidy, but that such a drastic decision shouldn’t have been made without taking all the steps to attempt to keep staff.

“We are urgently seeking more clarity from the company about the grounds on which it claims it is not eligible for Job Keeper,” said Jones.

The MEAA has been vocal about what it sees as a lack of support from the government for regional news. $5m has been pledged to support titles in regional areas, but Jones said that isn’t enough. 

“ACM is Australia’s largest owner of regional and rural publications, and for a company of this size to be closing down mastheads is more evidence, if any was needed, that the future of regional media in this country is under threat,” he said.

“Advertising revenues have been devastated by coronavirus, and we have seen close to a dozen mastheads close in the last fortnight while the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has sat on his hands.

“More than ever, rural and regional communities need trusted sources of news and the government must provide emergency funding so media in country Australia can survive.”


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