Daily Express cartoonist threatened with sack on day of Charlie Hebdo massacre

The Daily Express's cartoonist was told he was at risk of compulsory redundancy on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it has emerged.

Express Newspapers, publisher of the Express and Daily Star titles, is aiming to make 25 compulsory redundancies after 150 staff left voluntarily in the recent round of cuts, making a total of around 175 editorial jobs lost.

This week, former Trinity Mirror managing editor Eugene Duffy is understood to have been taken on as a consultant to oversee the publisher's aim of making £14m cost savings.

As well as leaving the Daily Express without a staff cartoonist, the proposed forced redundancies would see the paper's sports reporters cut from nine to six. The department recently lost its rugby editor and motor racing correspondent to voluntary redundancy.

Two Daily Express sports sub-editors, a designer, a page editor and music feature writer on the Daily Star, and two features journalists on the Sunday Express are also understood to have been told they face losing their jobs.

Included in the 150 journalists to take voluntary redundancy were long-serving Daily Express picture editor Mick Lidbury, Sunday Express picture editor Jane Sherwood, Sunday Express home affairs editor Ted Jeory, Daily Star deputy editor Kieron Saunders, the Star's head of production Bob Hadfield, and Daily Express showbiz and media editor Elisa Roche. 

Daily Express health editor Jo Willey, Daily Star showbiz reporter Nigel Pauley, Daily Star TV reporter Katie Begley and Daily Express features writer Simon Edge were also among those to leave voluntarily.

Press Gazette understands that around 14 of 40 digital staff – who work across both the Express and Star websites – have taken voluntary redundancy as part of the scheme announced in July.

Last week, the Daily Express did not have a staff reporter in Paris to cover the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which was thought to have been prompted by cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the magazine. And cartoonist Paul Thomas was told his job was at risk on the same say.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The timing was crass to say the least.

“The company appears to be more concerned with picking off people to go than investing in its biggest asset, the staff with their unique skills and experience.

“Getting rid of key roles or handing over chunks of the paper to an outside company as is happening on the Daily Express City pages is completely short sighted and just underlines why it’s the end of the road for Richard Desmond.”

News of the 25 compulsory redundancies comes as Northern and Shell are advertising for a number of new digital positions, including an editor for US and Australia coverage.

N & S Digital is also seeking a night news editor, head of production, head of news, a nature editor and a number of reporter positions.

A statement from the Express Newspapers NUJ chapel last week said: 

We fear Richard Desmond will go down in history as the man who killed four national newspapers. It is clear there is no future for these titles under the current ownership. The appeal came after it was reported that Mr Desmond, 63, has asked bankers at Barclays Capital to find a buyer for the company, which once boasted the world’s largest selling newspaper.

"To add insult to injury, staff learned that Mr Desmond, who made £360 million profit on the sale of Channel  5 earlier this year, has also refused to give his entire workforce a pay rise for the seventh consecutive year. Last year his Northern & Shell company, which controls Express Newspapers, made a £37 million operating profit. Sources at the company have estimated that Mr Desmond has taken £500 million out of the newspapers since he bought them in November 2000."

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