Reuters journalists in the UK are holding an informal ballot on strike action this week over what they allege are “the most punitive job cuts ever proposed by editorial management.”
Some 35 jobs in this country out of 50 worldwide are to be compulsorily axed as the international news agency cuts costs. The NUJ chapel says the move involves shifting jobs to Singapore and Toronto to save money and cut the London headcount as part of chief executive officer Tom Glocer’s Fast Forward programme.
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Those affected include 14 on the picture desks; six on the graphics desk plus two contractors; nine online staff out of 14; and five clerical and one management staff on the sports results desk. Journalists in the sports department have been told to expect further cuts.
Worldwide, Reuters is choosing to move some staff operations “offshore”, to take advantage of cheaper conditions in other countries.
At the Fleet Street UK HQ, the cuts were announced last Thursday, to the relevant unions and on the internal message board. A Reuters spokeswoman said that, with relocation, the company hoped to reduce the loss of jobs to 10. Picture editing and some graphics work is moving to Singapore and the online package operation News2Web is moving to Toronto.
The 280-strong chapel believes more cuts are expected in December. It has been unanimous in opting for the informal ballot to gauge the temperature for industrial action.
The sports editor is understood to have been given 60 days to come up with a new structure for the service, which staffers fear could threaten around half of the 27 remaining editorial jobs. They feel aggrieved that the news comes after a particularly good year for the team, covering major events such as the Olympics and the European football championships.
They believe “outsourcing” any of its coverage – as has already happened with some US sports – would have a detrimental effect on quality.
A chapel official said: “The Reuters’ brand depends on the quality of its journalism. How can a company, which spends a million dollars a year sponsoring a Formula 1 racing car, even consider closing its sports desk -a move which would hugely benefit our competitors. We owe it to our clients to defend the editorial standards for which we have been recognised for more than 150 years.”
The chapel also plans to write to NUJ MPs and to start a press campaign to protest at the cuts.
“Reuters NUJ chapel believes that such measures will irreparably damage the company’s reputation for editorial accuracy and integrity,” said a statement.
Reuters is moving jobs from the United States to Bangalore, Singapore and Toronto.
Last Friday, global managing director David Schlesinger said the company was proposing a series of moves that would help transform its editorial operation.
“While they each will sadly affect some staff and their jobs, we intend that the overall effect will be positive for our organisation and clients,” he said, explaining that a global picture desk and the some of the London graphics desk would be moved to Singapore .
He added: “We also plan several moves in sports, ending the London overnight sports desking operation, returning that responsibility to the Asia desk in Singapore.”
By Jean Morgan