Johnston Press assurances ahead of Sheffield strike vote

Regional publishing group Johnston Press has assured staff that plans to cut staff from its subbing ‘hub’in Sheffield will not lead to overall job losses.

The assurance comes ahead of journalists on the Sheffield Star and its Associated Newspapers starting a ballot tomorrow over possible strike action.

The strike vote has been set in motion by the National Union of Journalists which fears up to ten jobs – around half its current workforce – could be lost from the ‘hub’which was created just nine months ago to take on production duties for papers in the North East and Yorkshire.

Johnston Press told staff last week that following a review of the Sheffield subbing team it proposed to reduce staff numbers by 9.5 full-time roles, while creating five new posts.

Job losses would be offset by redeployment, the company said, as an additional 18 editorial roles were available within the North Midlands/South Yorkshire region.

John Bills, managing director of Sheffield Newspapers, told staff: ‘As a result of this proposal there is no overall reduction to current headcount.

‘Prior to any implementation, we will consult extensively on an individual and collective basis.

‘During this consultation process we will explain the procedure, consider all alternatives, examine ways of mitigating the effects of this proposal, determine redundancy terms and address any other issues that may arise.

The staff consultation, Bills added, would be completed by the end of January.

‘The company’s announcement of the dismantling of much of the Sheffield hub came out of the blue for members,’said Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands organiser.

‘After the initial shock, the mood has turned to anger.

‘Many members put up with all the hardships that the company imposed on their lives in order to try to stay with the work.

‘All that effort has been thrown back in their faces by a company that is thrashing around adopting buzzwords and trendy business strategies with little thought to shoring up its newspapers core during difficult times.

‘As usual, the timing the company is proposing for these changes to take place is all about railroading their untested plans through while staff are still groggy from the initial hit.

‘Journalists at Sheffield are not prepared to let this happen and our NUJ chapel has taken the decision to ballot for action to defend members put at risk by a company greedy to keep up unsustainable profit levels.”

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