The National Union of Journalists has called for a moratorium on compulsory job losses for staff at JPI Media amid a bidding war for the publisher’s regional titles.
Newsquest has emerged as the frontrunner in negotiations for the roughly 200 regional titles, including The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, according to a Guardian report citing three anonymous sources.
The regional publisher is said to have outbid Reach, who reportedly tabled an offer close to £50m for JPI Media’s regional assets.
The negotiations exclude the i paper. Press Gazette understands Daily Mail owner DMGT is the preferred partner in negotiations for the national daily.
A Newsquest spokesperson told Press Gazette: “We don’t comment on market speculation.”
The NUJ raised concerns about Newsquest’s track record when it comes to takeovers, accusing it of “aggressively stripping out costs, including jobs, and reducing terms and conditions for transferred staff”.
In recent years Newsquest has expanded to absorb the Romanes Group in Scotland, NWN Media in North Wales, the Isle of Wight County Press and the CN Group in Cumbria.
“In all of these takeovers, our members have typically suffered heavy job losses and their pay and conditions have been affected,” said NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
“So we have understandable concerns about what our members might face if Newsquest is successful in acquiring JPI Media.”
Stanistreet called on all interested bidders to agree, as a minimum, to not to bring in compulsory job losses for at least two years after acquiring the titles and to honour existing terms and conditions.
“We would be willing sit down and talk to any new owner about their plans to stabilise and grow this business for the benefit of local communities who desperately need access to quality journalism like never before,” she said.
Newsquest already owns the Herald and a number of other Scottish titles, which could lead to competition concerns should it acquire the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News from JPI Media.
The Guardian said Newsquest would seek to manage the Scotsman newspapers independently under a “hold separate” agreement until the takeover was approved by public watchdogs.
JPI Media was formed by Johnston Press’ creditors when the publisher collapsed into administration in November last year.