Former News of the World journalists are questioning News Corp‘s commitment to find them other jobs in the company after being offered enhanced redundancy terms at the weekend under an ‘early leaver’scheme.
The redundancy package is generous by industry standards and would see even relatively junior members of staff walk away with around £30,000.
But some insiders believe the way in which the News of the World was closed last month, particularly the fact that management had branded it toxic, makes it particularly hard for them to find other jobs. And some have been talking to lawyers about a possible group action against News International.
National Union of Journalists national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: ‘There seems to be no suggestion that they are going to find them jobs. What seems to be going on now is that they are ethnically cleansing the place of anyone who was involved in the News of the World.”
The 200-plus full-time News of the World staff were placed on three months gardening leave following the closure of the title a month ago.
On 12 July the News Corrp said in a statement that the ‘vast majority’would be found jobs elsewhere in the business.
It was a pledge which was reiterated by News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch in his evidence to MPs on 20 July. And former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks went further in her evidence to MPs on the same day when she said: ‘Every single one of them [the blameless News of the World journalists] will be offered a job.”
But former News of the World staffers are now sensing a change of atmosphere at Wapping.
One former staffer told Press Gazette: ‘People had been offered potential jobs within News International but now their calls and emails are not being returned.
‘The early leavers deal makes it abundantly clear that they want shot of us. The jobs are not there and they are not being honest with us, it feels like more broken promises from the company.”
A former News of the World journalist told Press Gazette that they had recently gone for a job interview outside the company and been told they were perfect for the job, but could not have it because of their association with the News of the World.
Former News of the World staffers were particularly concerned by a list of job vacancies elsewhere in News Corp which was circulated. It included positions such as a stock controller in Italy, oil reporter for Dow Jones newswire and a materials manager in Siberia.
A well-placed source said: ‘We were branded toxic and that is what we have become. Staff are going to lawyers and there is now talk of a class action against News International.
‘People feel that they are unemployable as a result of what has happened. They are looking into possible compensation for damage to their professional reputations and loss of future earnings.”
A spokesman for News Corp told Press Gazette: ‘We stand by Rupert Murdoch’s comments that we will make every effort to make sure those people are employed with other divisions of the company.”
News of the World pay-off terms:
Under the ‘early leaver scheme”, former News of the World staff are being offered an enhanced redundancy package if they apply for it by 31 August, with payments processed by 6 September.
The deal includes at least three months’ notice pay for all staff; and four weeks’ pay per year of service (up from NI’s normal offer of three weeks’ pay per year). This is in addition to the balance of pay for the three month’s gardening leave which all staff are on.
Staff across News International are being offered performance related pay rises of up to 2.5 per cent. Under the News of the World deal, staff are getting the 2.5 per cent rise backdated to cover the terms of their settlements.
NoW staffers are also to qualify for a £1,000 performance related-bonus under the terms of the pay-off (which is near the top end of the staff bonus scheme being offered across the company this year). And they are being offered a training allowance of £1,000.
Press Gazette understands that there is no confidentiality clause included in the deal.