Newsquest has ended a long-standing partnership with a professional picture agency that provided photographic coverage for a number of its news titles in south London.
The deal with Deadlinepix for news and sport images has been stopped after more than a decade, according to the National Union of Journalists.
There are no staff photographers at the news hub in Sutton, south London, says the union who claims the decision will impact the quality of newspapers and websites.
Titles based at the hub include The Guardian series covering Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbeldon as well as the Richmond and Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper (which has six local editions).
Staff in Sutton are already balloting for strike action over inadequate staffing, excessive workloads, pay, the health and safety of employees and the reduced quality of newspapers.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “Newsquest’s disgraceful behaviour is alienating staff and readers alike.
“Good quality pictures are central to the long term, sustainable success of any publication. Taking a hatchet to costs over and over again is not a strategy worth the name.
“Staff are standing up for their papers even if the management aren’t; Newsquest CEO Henry Faure Walker needs to step in and sort out this mess.”
Including this latest cut to editorial staff, the union estimates that since March the Sutton hubs annual costs have fallen by more than £350,000 as departing reporters and news editors have not been replaced. It also warned that more cuts could be on the way.
An NUJ chapel spokesperson said: “There’s no plan for how this cutback will work in practice – because our managing director Tony Portelli refuses to give his staff any information about his plans.
“It feels like he’s making it up as he goes along.
We’ve lost eight members of staff without replacement in the last six months and still he refuses to talk to us. If he’s on the editorial floor, he hides away in his office.
“We’re really worried that when we tell people: ‘I’m afraid we don’t have photographers anymore’, it will damage our papers’ standing on patches they’ve represented for up to 162 years.”
Press Gazette has approached Newsquest for comment.
Rival regional publisher Archant also recently axed three out of four staff photographers covering multiple titles in east London.