Journalists working on Trinity Mirror‘s London-based nationals will ballot on industrial action after warning it would be impossible to produce quality papers if the publisher carried through with its proposed cut of 200 editorial posts.
Staff decided to vote on possible strike action during an emergency meeting of the British Association of Journalists at the Mirror’s Canary Wharf headquarters on Friday.
During the meeting, union members condemned Trinity’s “draconian proposal” to cut around 60 casuals and up to a quarter of the permanent editorial staff from the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People, saying it would leave the titles “hopelessly understaffed”.
“The latest proposals amount to the loss of about 40 per cent of the editorial team and will, if implemented in full, make it impossible for the remaining staff to produce quality national newspapers any more. The job will turn into a sweatshop,” a resolution from the BAJ’s Mirror chapels stated.
Union members attacked the “shameful” remuneration package of £1.68m recently awarded to chief executive Sly Bailey and the £909,000 awarded to finance director Vijay Vaghela while such deep cuts were proposed.
Staff highlighted how Mirror Group Newspapers, the Trinity subsidiary which publishes the three papers, was set to make an operating profit of around £60m in 2010 – a figure similar to that made in 2009.
“The company is proposing to rip the heart and soul out of the national titles,” the resolution stated.
“BAJ members have been left with no alternative but to have a ballot on industrial action to impress on the company that its proposals are intolerable and unacceptable.”
The meeting followed an announcement from Trinity about plans to cut jobs across the three titles and develop a new multimedia newsroom similar to those introduced at its regional newspaper centres in Birmingham and Liverpool.
The introduction of a new content management system, ContentWatch, means that most of the cuts are likely to come from production departments, with some sub-editing outsourced to a partner organisation.
The news and features departments on each title will be merged into single content units, pooling reporters and writers. Digital and print publishing teams will also be merged and Scottish editions scrapped.
Trinity Mirror has started a 90-day consultation on its proposals and opened a voluntary redundancy scheme which will run until 9 July.
Ahead of the decision to ballot on industrial action, a Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “It’s understandable that changes of this nature create anxiety.
“We are fully committed to consulting with all affected staff and their representatives on our proposals to see through this vital transition.”