NUJ condemns Newsquest 'job massacre' as more than 30 roles are put at risk of redundancy across UK

More than 30 jobs – including four editor positions – have been made redundant or put at risk of redundancy by Newsquest this week, according to the National Union of Journalists. (Picture: A Newsquest strike last year)

The union has said the proposed job cuts – across the North East, Wales, London and the Home Counties – have left staff “shell shocked” and described it as a “job massacre”.

The NUJ said the cuts are expected to affect numerous jobs on The Press in York, South Wales Argus and on the Northern Echo in Darlington.

News of the job losses comes in the same week it was announced that nine editorial jobs – including two deputy group editor roles – are set to go as part of a shake-up in London and the Home Counties.

On the Northern Echo, nine weekly and daily production journalists and a graphic designer are being put at risk of redundancy. Two production editor jobs are being retained in Darlington, on the Echo and Stockton and Darlington Times, and four production toles are being transferred to Bradford.

This morning, Press Gazette reported that the editor of the Darlington and Stockton Times is stepping down after 23 years next month. He is not understood to have been made redundant. A new role of group weeklies content editor is being created in Darlington.

In York, the union said the Gazette and Herald’s editor and deputy editor are at risk of redundancy along with the York Press web editor and part-time community publisher, a newsroom assistant and deputy sports editor. A new social media editor job is being created in York, and the chief sub, night production editor, features editor and content editor roles are being moved to Bradford.

In Bradford, the editors of the Craven Herald, Keighley News, Ilkley Gazette/Wharfedale Observer are at risk of redundancy. In addition, a features content manager, a commercial features writer, one features writer, a deputy sports editor and a graphic artist are at risk of redundancy.

Eight new jobs are being created in Bradford. Newsquest said they would mainly be on "a new regional production management desk catering for all the Newsquest Yorkshire & North-East titles".

the union said that one job on multimedia content features/supplements is at risk along with one commercial features writer, one features writer, one deputy sports editor and one graphic artist. Five jobs are being created in Bradford.

The news editor position on the South Wales Argus is also understood to have been made redundant and several photographers are also at risk.

According to the NUJ, the paper could be left with two photographers to cover five counties for three titles. It also said that three newsroom assistants will be reduced to two.

John Toner, an NUJ organiser who covers Wales, said: “These job cuts will hit an already stretched editorial staff, and those who are left when the smoke clears are fearing for the pressure they will be under from increased workloads. We have to ask the question, how can the staff trust this employer to offer them any kind of job security? They will live in constant fear of the next round of cuts. No one should have to work under such conditions.”

The NUJ said Newsquest, which is owned by US-based Gannett, wants to end consultation by 31 May and have a “new system” in place on 1 June.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “The words used by our members following today's announcements are ‘shell shocked’ and ‘job massacre’. After so many casualties and waves of cutbacks at Newsquest centres, it does seem that the company is at war with its staff. There may be jobs for some at Bradford, but who would trust the company enough to move home with the real risk the post will disappear in the near future?”

David Coates, Newsquest's North East regional managing director, said in a statement: "Over the course of the coming weeks we propose to make some changes to the structure of our editorial operations in York, Bradford and Darlington which we believe will help us meet the increasing demands of our growing online audience while at the same time placing the business on a more sustainable footing.

"The changes will result in some job losses but new roles will also be created.
 
"By consolidating production management of our newspapers in one regional centre, and centralising both daily and weekly content management in each centre, we believe we will be better able to manage the volume of work involved in producing our titles.
 
"Under the proposals, York-based and Darlington-based production roles would transfer to the Bradford production management centre.
 
"The Company will be exploring ways of avoiding compulsory redundancies and minimising the number of employees affected. We propose that these changes come into effect from 1 June 2015.
 
"With immediate effect we are entering into a period of consultation with those who may be affected by this proposal."

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