Sly the slasher

By Dominic Ponsford and Sarah Lagan

A week after their Christmas parties were cancelled, Trinity Mirror journalists have been told that their jobs are at risk.

National
newspaper executives were informed on Monday that up to eight per cent
of the labour force were under threat at the Daily Mirror, the Sunday
Mirror and The People.

At the same time, NUJ reps in the regions believe that job cuts there could be between five and seven per cent.

According
to a Trinity insider, marketing spend has been cancelled for the
nationals for the rest of the year, the Sunday Mirror’s annual
thinktank weekend has been dropped and Christmas cards will not be sent
out this year.

Marketing budgets next year are understood to be targeted for 30 per cent cuts.

One
senior national journalist put the blame on chief executive Sly Bailey,
telling Press Gazette: “Sly loves being called the axewoman because she
thinks it pleases the City. But she has absolutely no understanding of
how newspapers or journalists actually function, nor does she show any
sign of caring very much. “

Her only interest is in making more profit while continually cutting jobs and costs on the nationals.

“The
problem is that there is nothing left to cut, so she’s had to resort to
banning Christmas parties and cards, and getting rid of yet more
journalists. And if all the marketing budgets get slashed the way she
intends to slash them next year then we may as well all pack up and go
home.”

Having delivered the news to national editors, Bailey
boarded a first class flight to New York to attend a meeting at EMI,
where she is also a board member.

The cuts come in response to
“difficult” trading conditions and the likelihood of this year’s
profits not exceeding last year’s figure of £253.1m on turnover of
£1.1bn.

Bailey’s strategic review of July 2003 was followed by
two years of cutbacks across Trinity’s 240 regional papers and five
nationals. At the time she announced plans to shed 550 jobs out of the
then 12,000 staff.

The British Association of Journalists
represents journalists on Trinity Mirror’s national titles. General
secretary Steve Turner said “MGN’s titles are obviously experiencing
difficult advertising conditions, although circulation revenue has been
increasing this year. Hopefully advertising will pick up in the
Christmas and New Year period.

“BAJ is watching the company’s
review carefully and reminds the company that staffing levels on the
Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People have already been cut to the
marrow.”

NUJ union reps at Trinity’s regional papers were told on
Tuesday that the move was a reaction to difficult trading conditions
and fears of a downturn in the property market.

A memo to all
Trinity Mirror staff said: “We are now starting to review a number of
measures to reduce or postpone cost. We have already taken steps to
reduce labour cost through vacancy management, but it now appears
likely that further steps will be necessary, including the possible
reduction in the number of our employees.

“If such a course of
action does become necessary, the company will continue to follow its
policy of calling for volunteers in the first instance.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear described the cuts as an “obscene and short-term reaction”.

He
said: “Three weeks ago at Birmingham there was a major relaunch and
investment, yet they are telling their staff ‘be terrified for your own
jobs’. It’s hardly a basis on which to build morale for a relaunch of a
paper.”

Martin Shipton, father of the NUJ chapel at the Western
Mail, said: “These cuts are just to prop up the Mirror. Sly is trying
to present as positive a picture of the Mirror as possible and is
trying to screw more out of the regionals, which I think is
disgraceful.

The Western Mail’s margins were over 30 per cent. There are no grounds whatsoever for redundancies here.”

The
Western Mail & Echo chapel was due to propose a vote of no
confidence in Sly Bailey on Friday at a company forum set up for
journalists, management and unions to negotiate.

The NUJ has
called for a national meeting of Trinity reps on 19 November and Dear
has not ruled out the possibility of industrial action.

Analyst Numis Securities is predicting Trinity Mirror profits of around £250m for this year.

A
Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “All media owners are experiencing tough
trading conditions due to the slowdown in advertising markets. We are
reviewing a number of possible actions to support our businesses, which
may include redundancies, in what is a challenging period for the media
industry.

“We are in consultation with our employees and their
representatives and it is too early to give an indication of the likely
outcome of this review.”

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