Trinity Mirror cancels Christmas

By Sarah Lagan

Trinity Mirror has told staff across its national and regional
titles that their Christmas parties have been cancelled this year. The
move is part of budget cuts throughout the group that are imposing a
tighter grip on discretionary spending and a job freeze on
non-essential staff, as revealed in Press Gazette.

News of the cancellation was broken to staff via an email in many
newsrooms. It stated the company’s spending towards Christmas was
“discretionary” and that it would be “inappropriate” to spend the money
when the pressure is on to cut costs.

Part of the memo said:
“Last week a brief was issued concerning the need to achieve cost
savings as a prudent reaction to the continuance of difficult trading
conditions, in particular the need to reduce discretionary spend. In
reaction a number of TM companies have decided that the usual company
contribution to Christmas falls within the definition of discretionary
spend and that it would be inappropriate to be spending money at a time
when they are under pressure to reduce all costs.”

One insider
said: “When staff are already lacking in morale, cancelling Christmas
does little to raise it. What management fails to realise is that small
gestures of appreciation go very far. Over the past year we’ve all
worked very hard in the face of swingeing cuts and this seems a strange
way to pay us back. These cuts may have helped Trinity to improve its
profits but it’s at the expense of quality journalism.”

Trinity said the cuts needed to be made in the face of difficult trading conditions due to the slowdown in advertising markets.

In
the 53 weeks ending 2 January 2005, operational profits before
exceptional items at the group were up 20.9 per cent to £253.1 million,
with revenue up 5.8 per cent to £1.141 billion. It reported incremental
net cost savings of £23 million.

Trinity Mirror is Britain’s
biggest newspaper group and publishes 240 regional papers as well as
the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, People, Sunday Mail and Daily Record.

A
spokesman said: “We’ve already announced that we are taking steps to
manage discretionary spending more carefully during this challenging
period for the media industry. It’s about running the business in a
sensible and responsible way, an approach that is in the best interests
of our businesses, our newspapers and our staff.”

NUJ national
organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: “I think the move is just cosmetic.
It is psychologically designed to convince the staff that it has got a
serious need to make cuts and it’s obviously not something that is
going to be seen as serious when it comes to the problems that it
claims it’s got. It isn’t seriously dealing with the concerns as to why
Trinity Mirror is unable to sell more copies of the papers.”

Sly
Bailey (left) declared that Trinity should aim to equal its profit
margins with that of Johnston Press as did Northcliffe as part of its
“Aim Higher” initiative.

Fitzpatrick said: “There are no
similarities between the two groups. If it’s going to make comparisons
then it ought to reopen its pension scheme because Johnston Press still
has a final pension salary scheme.”

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