Journalists working for Newsquest Bradford have been told to reapply for their jobs as part of a plan to reduce the overall size of the editorial team and merge newsrooms, the National Union of Journalists has warned.
Newsquest intends to merge the editorial teams of the Keighley News, Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer and the Bradford Telegraph & Argus as it reduces the overall number of journalists from 18 to 16.
The union fears the changes will result in the Keighley and Ilkley papers losing their dedicated reporters, the loss of all but one photographer and a trainee, along with two editors and two other senior staff from across its papers.
The plan to reorganise the news operation at Newsquest Bradford comes after the local chapel had already taken the decision to hold a strike ballot over changes to the group’s pension scheme.
An emergency chapel meeting was held last night to discuss the latest developments.
Bob Smith, father of chapel at both Newsquest Bradford and the UK-wide Newsquest group chapel, called the proposed redundancies a ‘kick in the teeth for journalists working for a company that has lost the plot.”
He said: “Newsquest’s reward for loyal journalists who have endured a pay freeze lasting more than 1,000 days and the closure of their pension scheme, is to throw them on the scrapheap.”
Smith highlighted a statement sent to staff by Newsquest Bradford’s group editor Perry Austin-Clark, which said the poor sales performance of the division’s weekly papers had contributed to the decision and that synergies between the local papers would allow the group to provide more efficient coverage.
Smith said Newsquest was putting the future of its weekly titles at risk: “To pretend that the Keighley News and Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer serve the same audience is to live in cloud cuckoo land.
“Keighley and Ilkley are like chalk and cheese, separated by the expanse of Ilkley Moor – they are worlds apart, one a genteel former spa town and the other a post-industrial former mill town with high unemployment and social problems.
“The chapel will fight these job cuts tooth and nail. We intend to ballot for industrial action both to resist these unnecessary redundancies and to gain a pay rise for our beleaguered members.”
Press Gazette has yet to receive a response after requesting a comment from Newsquest Bradford.