The National Union of Journalists is considering legal action over the latest round of regional newspaper cost cuts and has unveiled research showing 500 jobs have been axed in the past five months.
The union is seeking legal advice on whether it should be allowed to negotiate directly with the regional newspaper groups at a national level when cuts, such as redundancies or pay freezes, are imposed across the board.
At an emergency summit in London this weekend, NUJ representatives from Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror and Newsquest agreed to launch a co-ordinated campaign against the job cuts and pay freezes – which they fear will lead to longer working hours, increased stress and declining quality.
According to the union, more than 500 journalists’ posts have been axed or left vacant at local newspaper groups since June. The NUJ estimates that 30 local newspaper offices and more than 50 titles have been closed.
NUJ campaigns officer Miles Barter told Press Gazette that recent cost-cutting measures by the regional newspaper groups had clearly been imposed at group level – but that the publishers have resisted calls for negotiations to be held on a national basis.
‘We will be writing to the groups and saying clearly we should be having national talks because these are national decisions,’he said.
‘We’ve always said that it would be more sensible to have national talks because quite clearly they lay down their policies at a national level. They’ve always written back saying they don’t want to do that.
‘Having told us for years that we’ve got to have talks locally, they’re imposing pay cuts from on high. We will be seeking legal advice as to whether that’s allowed.”
Last month, both Trinity Mirror and Newsquest imposed a group-wide pay freeze for staff in the face of tough trading conditions.
Trinity Mirror also announced 78 job cuts at its north-west titles and a number of high-profile Newsquest editors and managers lost their jobs. Cumbria-based CN Group revealed that it would have to cut up to 30 staff.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said cutting editorial budgets in the regional press was a ‘false economy”.
‘The very people who plunged the industry into this crisis by demanding such excessive profits believe the solution is to axe journalists and freeze pay,’he said.
‘It is a false economy to put the ability to deliver scoops, quality content and strong local coverage in jeopardy.
‘Local newspapers in print and online remain viable and profitable businesses. We can’t stand by and see this profiteering destroy our industry.”