Guardian journalists pledge support for regional colleagues

Journalists on Guardian Media Group‘s national titles – the Guardian and Observer – have vowed to support colleagues in the regions who are facing redundancy.

GMG runs its regional newspaper division as a profit-making centre to help support the journalism of the loss-making Guardian and Observer titles. Under the remit of the Scott Trust, which owns GMG, the company’s main purpose is to protect the journalism of The Guardian “in perpetuity”.

Whereas journalists on The Guardian and Observer have been protected from the threat of compulsory redundancy under the terms of their NUJ house agreement – this month GMG announced plans to axe more than 100 editorial jobs on its regional newspapers.

After a joint meeting of the Guardian and Observer NUJ chapels yesterday, they agreed a resolution saying: “When the chapels in Greater Manchester, Surrey and Berkshire decide on a course of action, we will support them.”

The motion also condemned what it described as a lack of consultation by GMG over the redundancies and called on the company to give local press journalists the same severance conditions as those enjoyed by those working on the nationals.

Earlier this month GMG announced that it was planning to close offices and axe jobs in Manchester and in Surrey and Berkshire.

Some 78 journalists are being cut from the Manchester Evening News and its sister weekly titles. A further 35 journalists are to go in Surrey and Berkshire where the Reading Evening Post is going from five days a week, to twice a week; and two paid-for weeklies are being closed-down altogether.

NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Management at Guardian Media have openly said they are sacrificing local papers to safeguard The Guardian. This divide and rule tactic has not worked. NUJ members will stand together to defend jobs and quality local journalism.”

The NUJ motion states: “The Guardian and Observer chapels deplore the management’s attempt to avoid its legal responsibilities. There must be 90 days’ consultation.

“This time could be used to considers ways of ameliorating the situation and trying to ensure the survival of the papers and preserving quality.

“We would support the MEN and other regional chapels if it became necessary to take the company to an employment tribunal because of the lack of proper consultation.

‘We call on management to offer the journalists in Greater Manchester and on the Surrey and Berkshire newspapers the same enhanced redundancy terms as are available to Guardian and Observer journalists until June 30, namely four weeks’ pay for every year’s service up to £95,000, plus three months’ pay in lieu of notice. This might well attract more volunteers for redundancy.

‘The Guardian and Observer chapels oppose compulsory redundancies. When the chapels in Greater Manchester, Surrey and Berkshire decide on a course of action, we will support them.”

A spokesman for GMG Regional Media said: “We understand that staff have concerns and that these changes, especially the job losses, are unwelcome news. However, they are essential if we are to continue to publish newspapers and websites in the North West and the South, and if this business is to have a future. We will continue to talk to the union and look to work with them as constructively as possible to bring in these changes with the minimum of disruption to staff and the business.

“It’s true that GMG cannot afford to sustain a substantially loss-making regional media business while pursuing the Scott Trust’s core purpose of securing the future of the Guardian. But GMG Regional Media would have to make these changes whoever owned them. Given the long-term structural changes in the market and now the devastating impact of the recession, it’s become a straightforward matter of survival.”

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