A strike ballot will take place in Leeds after Johnston Press announced it was making three compulsory redundancies, and seeking 15 voluntary redundancies.
The news comes on the day it was announced six journalists – including award-winning reporter Deborah Wain and a weekly editor – were leaving Johnston Press’s South Yorkshire division.
In Leeds, Johnston Press today announced three photographers were being made redundant.
They are also seeking six voluntary redundancies from Yorkshire Post editorial, six from Yorkshire Evening Post editorial, and three picture technicians who serve both papers.
According to the National Union of Journalists, there were 184 editorial posts last year. Of those, 20 have since disappeared through voluntary redundancy and non-replacement.
Since then, two photographers have left through voluntary redundancy and retirement, bringing total job losses – if the latest go through – to 40 in one year.
A joint chapel statement from both papers said: ‘The new round of job losses are not genuine redundancies within the definition of the term.
‘Redundancy occurs when there is no longer any work for a person to do. In our case the work is still there.
‘The company simply wishes to save the wages of some of the people doing it, and pass their workload on to colleagues who are left.
‘We believe that, if unchallenged, this is just the start of the reduction in the editorial workforce.
‘The company has also indicated that it may introduce centralised subbing, with implications for further job losses.”
Pete Lazenby, NUJ Yorkshire Evening Post father of chapel, said: “Johnston Press is still making hefty profits but is in a mess because it overstretched itself by buying so many other companies.
‘It paid out hundreds of millions to shareholders while borrowing hundreds of millions to expand.
‘It now has debts of £465m, and yet is valued according to share price at less than £80m.
‘We didn’t create this mess. The management did, yet we are expected to pay for their mistakes.”
Staff at the two titles held a protest earlier this month when John Fry, Johnston Press’s new chief executive, visited their offices.
Meanwhile, in Johnston Press’s South Yorkshire division, Martin Edmunds, editor of the Doncaster Advertiser Series, is one of six to take voluntary redundancy. He was also regional president of the Society of Editors.
Also leaving is Deborah Wain, of the Doncaster Free Press, who won the Paul Foot Award last year for exposing corruption in a Doncaster education project.