The National Union of Journalists has called for editorial staff to be protected following the takeover of the Express and Star newspapers by Trinity Mirror.
The £127m deal, announced today and expected to be completed by the end of the month, includes the Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express and Daily Star Sunday as well as celebrity magazine titles Ok!, New!, and Star.
The NUJ has said it will be “seeking guarantees that the deal will not result in redundancies and that the titles will be able to thrive”.
It also said the deal could be referred to the Competition and Markets Authority on media plurality grounds, although the combined daily print circulation of the new group (Daily Star, Daily Mirror and Daily Express) will still be less than the current sale of The Sun alone.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “After many years of under-investment and one pay increase in the past decade, journalists working for Richard Desmond have been desperate for a new owner to provide the resources needed to help increase the readership and the success of the titles.
“However, the NUJ is concerned that Trinity Mirror, with its long record of making cuts to its newspapers, will not be the knight on the white horse they were hoping for.
“Therefore we will be seeking guarantees that the deal will not result in redundancies and that the titles will be able to thrive.”
Stanistreet said that the buyout “must not result in the closure of titles, loss of independent of titles or choice for readers” coming as it does after the government has launched a review into the sustainability of the UK press.
A spokesperson for the Express Newspapers NUJ chapel said: “Our titles employ some brilliant journalists, but they have been starved of investment and pay rises in the past few years.
“If this takeover means that the papers and websites are going to be able to compete with rivals on a more equal footing, then we will welcome it.
“It is vital that Trinity Mirror gives cast-iron guarantees that there will be no editorial cuts or merging of editorial resources to ensure that the titles and their websites retain separate voices.”
The Mirror’s NUJ chapel also called for assurances that there would be no cuts to editorial roles on the newspapers.
A spokesperson said: “Both newspapers are already run as tight ships and therefore there should be no threat to editorial jobs and house agreements must be respected.”
Trinity Mirror has said the deal would involve £20m savings by 2020 through reduced duplication.
Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox told the BBC: “There will over time be job cuts, because we are going to remove duplication, mainly in back offices functions. We are bringing two very similar businesses together and when you do that, inevitably there is a certain amount of duplication.”
He added: “From the journalism perspective, by pooling our resources, instead of, for example, sending two reporters from two titles to the same football game, we can send them to two different games and get more breadth of coverage.”
Desmond is to retain a 10 per cent stake in the group, but will have “no ongoing involvement in the business”, Fox has said.
Picture: Nicholas Bowman/PA Wire