Journalists working on the Johnston Press-owned Scarborough Evening News are being asked to move to Sheffield, 90 miles away.
The proposed changes follow the introduction of the Atex content management system which has led to a group-wide revolt among Johnston Press journalists across the North of England.
As part of the changes all journalists doing sub-editing and design work at Scarborough are being asked to transfer to a central production “hub” in Sheffield.
National Union of Journalists northern and Midlands organised Chris Morley said: “This is just the first step in a management gameplan to force our members to accept the introduction of the ATEX content management system for production of the group’s newspapers.
“The lack of information available to our members is causing huge anxiety, and is a reason why journalists across the Johnston Press Group voted by a massive 87 per cent that they would be prepared to take industrial action over the proposed changes to working methods.
“Management is treating employees in Scarborough in this deplorable way because it clearly feels no responsibility for their welfare or proper employment.
“There has been a conspiracy of silence around the company’s plans to introduce the ATEX content management, and that conspiracy has generated real fear for the future among our members. They don’t know if they will have a job in a few weeks’ time; the Johnston Group is saying, in effect, that it doesn’t care about the impact of forcing an extra journey of an hour-and-a-half to work upon sub-editors being told to move from Scarborough to Sheffield. The alternative if they refuse to move is to compete for a number of lower-paid jobs.
“Our members are sick of being pulled from pillar to post. What they want to do is to produce quality newspapers by using their professional skills and experience. While all the company wants is to reduce everything to a financial equation.”
Johnston Press management in Scarborough said that the new content system “will allow both words and pictures to be handled by one system as well as improve the newsgathering and content loading workflows”.
At the Johnston Press-owned Blackpool Gazette journalists are refusing to take part in training on the new Atex system as part of industrial action. They say the new system will result in stories appearing in print without being overseen by a sub-editor.
Elsewhere in the country, on Northcliffe’s West Country titles, journalists are facing upheaval because of cost-cutting and the introduction of new production technology.
The company is creating a new centralised subbing “hub” in Plymouth which will see subbing and design activities for the Plymouth based Herald, the Torquay-based Herald Express and the Express and Echo in Exeter centralised there.
As part of the shake-up, the content desk of the Western Daily Press – currently based in Bristol – is moving to Plymouth, 130 miles away. And the new technology means that production of the Western Morning News (eg. subbing), currently based in Plymouth, must be moved up to Bristol.
Some 31 jobs are at risk of redundancy by the proposed Northcliffe changes and many other sub-editors are facing the choice of moving or losing their jobs.