The president of the National Union of Journalists has condemned job cuts at the Financial Times, which he said were inappropriate for a profitable publisher such as Pearson.
James Doherty was speaking at a union meeting in the FT canteen this afternoon in protest at 80 proposed redundancies – of which around 20 are expected to be journalists.
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Staff are angry that parent company Pearson is proposing the cuts despite announcing this week that it expects to post a 20 per cent rise in full-year profits in March.
Doherty told about 150 assembled union members that they had “a massive fight on their hands” and that “quality journalism was at stake”.
“This is not MFI, this is not Woolworths,” he said. “The FT and Pearson are not businesses which are on their knees.”
Veteran socialist politician Tony Benn, a lifelong NUJ member, also addressed the meeting with a speech on the looming recession and his experiences of trade unions.
He highlighted the potential dangers of “debt slavery”, which makes journalists nervous of taking action for fear of losing their jobs.
“You [journalists] create the wealth for the shareholders. Therefore you are entitled to a say. Getting a voice is the beginning of progress,” he told staff.
One FT staff member undergoing the redundancy process criticised management for its mixed message, and said: “There’s lots of Orwellian double-speak, but no morality.”
Another journalist expressed concerns that the “true voice of journalism” was being “done away with by management” who were pushing towards cheap-to-produce, online content.
A statement from the union said: “The FT’s staff are the goose that lays the golden eggs. It’s wrong for management to be thinking about strangling the goose.”
The NUJ chapel at the daily business paper urged Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino that it rejected “both the philosophy and the economic basis for the latest round of compulsory redundancies”.
“As publisher of the Financial Times we would have hoped that you would be aware that the big bonus culture and the short-term pursuit of shareholder value rather than long-term growth have proved catastrophic for the world economy,” it said.