Archant Norfolk journalists seek legal advice over job cuts

Journalists at Archant’s Norfolk newspapers have described management’s handling of a redundancy trawl as ‘a farce’ and have said they are seeking legal advice.

Last Friday, the regional newspaper publisher announced it was looking to cut 54 jobs from the 179-strong editorial team working on the Eastern Daily Press, Norwich Evening News and their associated local weeklies.

The National Union of Journalists chapel at Archant Norfolk met yesterday to discuss its response to the cuts – which will affect almost a third of the total editorial workforce.

The chapel has said it will lobby “leading opinion-formers and readers” and fears the newsroom merger will severely hit the quality of local news.

Union members have also questioned the timing of the announcement, which came just days before today’s news of a £22m group operating profit across Archant’s titles.

“Members fear that the hard-won trust and competence of the newspapers is at stake in the plans which could see photographers, feature staff, sports writers and sub-editors slashed,” the NUJ chapel said in a statement.

The union now plans to challenge the legality of the redundancy process, claiming an initial list of at-risk staff contained a number of mistakes.

Archant Norfolk father of chapel Peter Kelley said: “The process, so far, has been a farce and reflects badly, to put it politely, on a company which says these changes are about quality.

“If another company had issued a list, for redundancy purposes, which had one person down twice and others with job titles around three years out of date, we’d be writing a story about it.

“It seems funny, but we are seeking legal advice. Equally seriously, the profit figures show that – although trading conditions are harsh – this is a well-run company which is continuing to make significant profits.

“Archant has – to its credit – entered the economic downturn in a strong position, compared to other media companies with – for example – very low debt.

“It is particularly difficult, therefore, for us to understand these disproportionate job cuts.”

An Archant spokesman said there would be no further statements from the company until the redundancy consultation process is completed.

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