Northcliffe staff in protest over job cuts threat

By Sarah
Lagan Journalists on the Bristol Evening Post and the Western Daily
Press staged a day of action this week protesting against a possible 36
job losses and the merging of editorial departments between the two
competing titles.

More than 70 editorial staff joined forces at
lunchtime outside their headquarters in Bristol on Tuesday to show
their opposition to the proposals.

The Western Daily Press has
formed a chapel of 50 NUJ members and, in a meeting, 37 to one (with
one abstention) voted in favour of balloting for industrial action if
there were compulsory redundancies. The Evening Post also voted
overwhelmingly in favour.

Daily Press father of chapel Paul
Breeden said if Northcliffe went ahead with proposals to merge the
photographic, features, sports, business and subbing desks, it would
“rip the heart out of” the two newspapers.

He told Press Gazette:
“Today’s action shows that the two papers are united in worry and fear,
not only about losing one-fifth of the workforce, but also the merging
of the departments.

“It makes us fear for the quality of the output those departments produce.

Where
the two papers overlap we compete quite vigorously, which is healthy,
especially as we are the only two daily papers to cover our areas.

We feel we will lose that competition.

“We’re
doing the day of action because we care about the papers; we don’t want
to disrupt production. We are not a militant paper – we didn’t have a
chapel 10 days ago.”

Union sources believe consultants who have
been reviewing the operation of the morning and evening titles
concluded that the quality of journalism would not be affected with 36
fewer staff and that if there were any redundancies they would expect
the first to be made by 3 January and the last by 13 January.

When
Press Gazette contacted Northcliffe, it would not comment specifically
on the Bristol papers, but referred to a press statement made in July
outlining its general strategy. That statement said: “Over the past
five years we have invested substantially in new presses and improved
technology as part of our continued commitment to producing
high-quality regional newspapers with strong editorial content.

“We
have consistently followed a strategy of publishing market-leading
local newspapers and websites that cater for the needs of our readers
and advertisers. These organisational and structural changes will help
us to continue this successful strategy.”

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