Observer comes to decision on job cuts

The Observer this week is close to settling on the redundancies made in response to the company’s decision to lose five journalists from the paper by March.

The redundancies have been achieved finally by some journalists volunteering to go. But the NUJ chapel at the paper is now anxious that a new house agreement will incorporate a no compulsory redundancy clause which their Guardian colleagues already enjoy. The call for greater protection has come as redundancy terms are due to be renegotiated.

Chapel members passed a motion to organise an industrial action ballot if negotiations on no compulsory redundancy are not concluded satisfactorily.

There were 43 votes for the motion, one against and one abstention.

Those leaving the paper will be off the payroll by 27 February. Reporters Nick Paton-Walsh and John Arlidge are to freelance, Paton-Walsh in Moscow. Arlidge will contribute features to The Observer.

Production journalist Kari Pedersen is transferring to The Guardian, while in features and sport negotiations on who is to go still have to be concluded.

There was a hiatus in negotiations when Burhan Wazir, who won the British Press Awards Young Journalist of the Year title in 1999, was also in line to go.

But when it was settled that two reporters were to go from the newsroom, Wazir was transferred from features to news.

Carolyn McCall, managing director, Guardian Newspapers, said: "There have been very open and constructive discussions with the Observer chapel."

By Jean Morgan

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