NUJ attacks Express trainee contracts

The NUJ is sending a letter to all colleges and universities that run journalism courses to warn students that trainee contracts at Express Newspapers "may not be worth the paper they're written on".

Last week the Daily Express axed six of its current crop of 12 trainee journalists one month into their two-year contracts. It is believed the six were told their contracts were terminated because of a re-evaluation of the group's internet strategy.

An Express Newspapers NUJ chapel representative said: "We want to make journalism students aware of the behaviour of Express Newspapers with regards to its graduate trainees. If they join Express Newspapers we want them to have their eyes wide open to the fact that graduate trainee contracts from [owner] Richard Desmond may not be worth the paper they are written on.

"We feel we were duty bound to inform journalism students that when it comes to securing a traineeship the Express is to be avoided. As of yet the management still haven't given them an official reason for their dismissal, which they are obliged to do."

The group's internet controller Richard Avery and human resources executive Hazel Messenger oversaw the dismissals. It is alleged Messenger told some of the female trainees: "It's a volatile industry, newspapers, you would be better off as midwives."

Chair of the NUJ's professional training committee Chris Wheal said in the letter to colleges: "Cynical journalism students will soon realise that the word ‘trainee' in a job title simply means cheap and expendable.

"When they hear politicians lament the declining standards of journalism today they will wonder why those very same politicians stand by silently while disreputable employers such as Desmond scythe their way through the journalists of the future. You can not expect the best journalism to grow out of the worst treatment."

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