Telegraph vs. Guardian: The mystery of 100 job losses

Guardian Media Group is hopping mad with the Daily Telegraph for revealing its discussions with Trinity Mirror about a possible sale of the company’s regional newspapers.

GMG has been stung by several aspects of the Telegraph’s story, including the allegation that the company is turning its back ‘on its heartland to keep the Guardian afloat”.

The Telegraph’s suggestion that GMG is engaged in a ‘fire sale’hasn’t gone down well either. Inevitably, GMG is also irritated by the fact that this story was written in the first place. GMG’s managers could do without the constant flow of leaks emanating from Kings Place.

But GMG seems particularly irked by the Telegraph’s suggestion that selling its regionals represents ‘a desperate attempt’to save 100 jobs at the Guardian and the Observer. No doubt that’s partly because the Telegraph’s claim opens up all of the old fault lines that exist between local and national journalists inside GMG.

But I was also intrigued by Roy Greenslade’s take on this. Yesterday afternoon, he offered up what sounded like a sanitised version of GMG’s reaction to the story:

There is no relation between those very separate matters. And there is no saving of those jobs.

The dispute is a bit mysterious. For a start, it’s not clear which ‘100 jobs’we’re talking about. Neither Greenslade nor the Telegraph have shed much light on this.

Are either or both of them referring to the 100 commercial jobs losses already planned? When it comes to redundancies, of course, numbers get thrown around with abandon. So perhaps we should be thinking about the 80 journalists who accepted voluntary redundancy at the Guardian and the Observer earlier this year?

If the Telegraph’s ‘100 jobs’includes all or some of these, this part of the story looks naïve. You don’t negotiate redundancy with 180 staff only to turn on a sixpence when Sly Bailey arrives in reception carrying a briefcase full of £50 notes.

But perhaps the Telegraph was hinting at something else. Perhaps it meant to suggest that selling the Manchester Evening News could obviate the risk of compulsory editorial redundancies at GNM when the division’s latest – and second – offer of voluntary redundancy ends in January.

Under the renegotiated house agreement that accompanied GNM’s move to Kings Place, the old prohibition against compulsory redundancies was set aside in favour of the idea that they might be possible ‘in extreme circumstances”.

Depending on how you look at the numbers, GMG’s cash position can be characterized as fairly extreme. GNM’s losses certainly qualify as such.

Compulsory redundancies remain a real possibility. If GNM tries to impose job cuts, a ballot for industrial action will follow. It could all get very ugly, very quickly.

But if GMG sells its regionals to Trinity Mirror for £40m, the NUJ will pursue the resulting logic. Surely that’s enough lucre to fend off a few dozen involuntary job losses? Surely £40m for GMG would make GNM’s situation less extreme?

Roy Greenslade’s suggestion that there is ‘no relation’between selling GMG Regional Media and rightsizing GNM’s cost base is made of wafer-thin stuff. Of course there’s a relationship. It’s called realpolitik, and it runs right the way through Kings Place.

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