Journalists at Express Newspapers have accused management of “defeatism” as it says up to 86 production jobs must go because of declining revenues.
The proposed job cuts at the Express and Star titles are linked to plans to introduce a new editorial system called Woodwing that would involve reporters writing straight onto the page. According to the NUJ, Express Newspapers is proposing to axe 36 staff sub editors, 33 long-term casuals and 17 other casuals.
Press Gazette initially reported that 69 staff would be affected – but the NUJ has since revealed that further casual sub editors are affected by the proposed cutbacks.
Management has blamed circulation decline and falling advertising revenues for the cutbacks.
Staff have been given figures showing that Express Newspapers’ ad revenue for the June to August was £1,836,550 – compared with £1,664,928 in the same period a year ago.
NUJ members at the Express titles met yesterday and passed a unanimous motion condemning the proposed job cuts and a move to change night subs from four to five-day weeks.
The motion said: “The chapel deplores the management’s attempt to conduct ‘negotiations’ behind the backs of chapel officials and its defeatism in relation to advertising and circulation revenue.”
In an email to staff, group managing editor Ian Parrott said that there had been a severe recession in advertising revenues in recent months: ‘There is no prospect of any improvement in the foreseeable future with the continuing economic problems worldwide having an impact on those companies that used to advertise with us and with other newspapers,” he wrote.
‘At the same time, circulation revenue is also down, as it is everywhere in the newspaper world. We do not expect to see circulation improving and due to the intense competition in our business, there is no way that we can increase the prices of our newspapers.”
NUJ Father of Chapel for Express Newspapers Steve Usher said he has seen independent figures which show that Express Newspapers has seen much lower year-on-year declines in advertising revenue than other national titles in recent months.
He said: ‘We’re actually doing very well. It’s completely out of proportion, I think its jumping on the carousel of the credit crunch to make a lot of savings that they don’t need to make and the company will struggle to cope with making.”
Usher added that staff were concerned about the practicality of the new editorial system, which will see only 26 production staff – renamed as “rewriters” – remaining. All production staff are currently being trained to use the new system. Usher said there are concerns about how work flow will be managed and if the quality of work will be affected.
‘They don’t seem to have knowledge of how it will function workflow wise from a reporter in the sticks to a finished page proof. This brings anxiety to everybody. They’re completely underestimating the art and importance of subediting. I’ve had a lot of emails from reporters saying they’re worried about the extra responsibilities and that checks and rewrites that need doing will not be done, and that the art of reporting will be exposed as a raw way of communicating.”