The Daily Express City desk is to be out-sourced to Press Association as part of a round of cutbacks that will see at least 10 per cent of journalists go across the Sunday and Daily Express and The Star titles.
Staff were told on Friday that up to 35 journalists will go – but one well-placed source told Press Gazette today that up to 60 staff could be involved, when regular casuals are taken into account.
Some 14 are to go when the City department is out-sourced to Press Association. And staff have been told there are also plans to out source the travel department.
According to a staff source – four staff are to go from the Star and four from the Sunday Express as well.
There is a feeling amongst some journalists at the Express titles that they already operating as tight a ship as possible after successive editorial cutbacks since Richard Desmond bought Express Newspapers in 2000.
There are also fears from some staff that out-sourcing such integral departments as City and travel shows a lack of long-term interest in the survival of the newspapers.
In a letter to staff, group editorial director Paul Ashford said: “As you will all be aware, we are currently experiencing very difficult market conditions with rising costs while circulation across all titles experiences a downward trend and advertising revenues fall dramatically.
“We are faced with unprecedented competition not only from other newspapers but also from freesheets and electronic media.
”We need to act quickly to ensure that the company remains in a sound financial position and circulations can continue to be supported. Very regrettably, this may mean approximately 30 to 35 redundancies across the editorial department plus tighter controls on freelance costs and contribution budgets.
“Consultations with the Unions will begin immediately, and will include consideration of staff who wish to take voluntary redundancy or an early retirement package.
This restructuring is unavoidable given market conditions facing the industry as a whole, but there is still confidence in our papers and their futures so long as we are able to run our business in an efficient and cost-conscious manner.
"The company takes seriously its responsibilities to staff and pensioners who depend on its long-term performance, and will try to make this exercise as fair and considerate as it can.”
Richard Desmond bought Express Newspapers for £125 million in 2000 and since then has paid himself up to £1 million a week according to company accounts.