New editorial system at Express still 'foggy' for staff

Journalists at the Express and Sunday Express are yet to be impressed with the new editorial system that will be replacing sub-editors and do not feel the system will work under the proposed dramatically reduced staff numbers.

Express Newspapers announced in September that 86 production jobs would be axed following the introduction of 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.

The NUJ has been waiting five weeks for a firm date to be set for them to review how the system is progressing, and claims that – in contrast to management’s reports that everyone involved has become more optimistic about the new system – staff who have undergone training are still unclear how the new system would work.

One member of staff told the NUJ: ‘My training revealed nothing as to how the new system would work with fewer people.’

They added that they had seen neither page templates nor style sheets and that the production flow seemed to be a typical ‘pass the parcel’situation. ‘No one knows how it is to work or even who is responsible for it. Writers filling defined holes seemed to be utterly problematic – and anyway how many writers want to be typesetters or sub-editors? Someone must have taken too many happy pills when this whole scheme was envisaged.”

An NUJ official said: ‘Management’s plans for the future and the introduction of a completely new system are ill thought out and foggy to say the least. They have forgotten that the dedication and hard work already put in by the staff will be needed in future.”

Management at Express Newspapers have given staff until 11 November to decide whether they want to volunteer for redundancy.

By last Thursday 25 people had asked for quotes on possible reundancy payouts, with only 30 per cent of those staff in the management’s ‘target area’- according to the NUJ.

The NUJ has also expressed concern that new staff are being taken on for jobs that could have been taken by people who are up for redundancy.

Management has set a deadline for the redundancy process to be completed of 31 December.

A consultation meeting between management and NUJ representatives is due to be held on 7 November to discuss Express Newspapers plans tp freeze its final-salary pension scheme at the end of the year.

Just under a third of staff are in the pension fund which was set up in 1988 and pays out a proportion of final salary, based on years served with the company.

Management has proposed staff in the fund to move over to the Prudential money-purchase scheme – which staff who joined the company since 1997 are on.

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