The National Union of Journalists has called Newsquest subbing hubs in Newport and Weymouth a “failed experiment” as the publisher looks to cut 19 production jobs.
The planned redundancies, first revealed by Press Gazette this morning, will see 59 full-time-equivalent posts cut to 40 across both offices. Consultations with staff end on September 15.
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The NUJ claims the move is a change of direction for the UK’s second largest regional publisher as it returns production responsibilities to local offices.
It warned sub editors’ “days are numbered” as Newsquest rolls out a new policy whereby reporters write into existing page templates – already in place at rival Archant.
It has been brought in after headlines were “often being changed when the copy was sent to local titles”, according to the NUJ.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The consequences of Newsquest’s failed experiment could be disastrous.
“After the deliberate destruction of subbing jobs in local centres, Newsquest is now taking an axe to its hubs, expecting copy editors to bear the pain for its mistakes.
“In a triple whammy, reporters and newsdesks are now being expected to pick up the work as it shifts back to local centres with no extra resources.
“Short staffing, heavy workloads and stress are simply ignored right up to the top of the company.”
A Newsquest spokesperson told Press Gazette: “Improvements in work flow have reduced the need for as many copy editors in the copy editing hubs, and therefore a consultation has been started about a possible reduction in staff numbers.”
Newsquest’s hub in Wales was set up in 2013, taking staff from an existing hub in Worcester, Worcestershire, some 70 miles away that had been created three years earlier.
The hub in Weymouth, set up last year, saw the company move 14 production staff from Watford, Hertfordshire, about 140 miles to the Dorset office.
The NUJ said titles in York were no longer using the Newport hub and that the Northern Echo had brought production back in-house.
Subs are also thought to be returning to Newsquest’s Glasgow office where The Herald newsroom is based, the NUJ added.
Chris Morley, servicing officer for the Newsquest Group chapel at the NUJ, said: “This latest devastating announcement for journalists’ jobs in the UK shows just how much loyalty Newsquest has to its staff.
“When it was creating the hubs only two years ago, it destroyed production jobs extremely painfully in local centres.
“To those it put at risk it said that there were jobs available for all should they care to move to take them – in some cases hundreds of miles.
“Some did take the offer, so what a cruel blow to now put the skids under them.”
A statement from the NUJ group chapel added: “The announcement of job cuts at Newport and Weymouth appear to mark the beginning of the end for a strategy that was misconceived from the get-go.
“Since the implementation of central copy-editing the casualties – skilled production workers throughout the UK, readers and advertisers and the latest staff facing redundancy – have far outnumbered the benefits.”
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