By Sarah Lagan
The Manchester Evening News’s NUJ chapel has turned down cash offers from management to tempt journalists to work evening shifts following the announcement last month that there will be up to 27 editorial redundancies at the paper, cutting around 22 per cent of its journalists.
A number of employees were told they would be expected to work shifts and evening work, following a review of the edition structure.
In October, staff had signed a deal agreeing that only new employees would have to work evening shifts, but have now been told it is a requirement.
During negotiations with MEN’s acting mother of chapel, Jude Gordon, publisher Guardian Media Group offered to up its original £15 for dinner allowances for rostered shifts to 7pm to £20, and £25 for shifts worked up to 11pm. However, following the chapel’s rejection of the new offer, management has gone back to £15.
Gordon said: "The difficulty is they are asking us to sign up to a deal without us knowing what rotas will look like.
"We have watched a fifth of our colleagues leave, knowing that we will have to cover their work, yet have still negotiated in good faith over possible further changes.
"But Paul Horrocks and [Guardian Media Group regional chief executive] Mark Dodson insist we have to tear up a perfectly good agreement while they keep their future plans secret. When we fail to cave in, they fall back on bullyboy tactics and withdraw the paltry fiver they had offered us to change our minds. Then they wonder why no one trusts them."
Management has agreed to allow journalists to refuse providing cover from 11pm to 6am.
Horrocks said: "We believed it was a significant achievement to get the redundancies on a voluntary basis.
"However we do need a flexible working agreement now there are less staff and we are producing an overnight edition as well as daytime editions.
"We have already moved our position twice, but the chapel have rejected our offers. Therefore we intend to begin working the new rotas from 3 April.
"If anyone has difficulties we will treat them sympathetically."
Following the announcement of redundancies last month, the chapel voted to ballot for industrial action and passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in GMG’s management and Horrocks.
On Tuesday the chapel hopes to hold a meeting with management.
Redundancies at two other groups DARLINGTON & LANCS JOBS LOST
As part of a "business review" seven editorial jobs are also to go at the Newsquest-owned Northern Echo in Darlington.
A team of reporters and photographers from the Echo and the Darlington & Stockton Times are to be merged across the two titles, two assistant editor positions look set to go as well as two part-time subs on the Advertiser series.
In a memo to staff, managing director David Kelly said the decision followed difficult trading conditions with "no sign of improvement in the economic well-being of our marketplaces".
Meanwhile at the Lancashire Evening Telegraph Group, a restructure has been announced that will result in several redundancies.
Two out of three news editor positions on the weeklies are to go, as well as a feature writer and copy taker. This means three Newsquest weeklies will now be covered by one news editor. The remaining two have the choice to apply either for a writer/sub position to work across Preston and Blackpool, a senior reporter position at Preston or a senior reporter position for the LET based in Blackburn. The new positions might mean the news editors have to take a substantial pay cut.
The vacant editor’s position at the Blackpool Citizen will not be filled.
A centralised subbing pool of three people will be established at Preston.
The Chorley office will have one reporter, while the Blackpool office will have one full-time and one part-time reporter. There will be two reporters based in Preston, working for the Preston and Blackpool papers.
The news follows the announcement that the Accrington, Darwen and Burnley offices are to close.