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The News Line: Feature Northern journalists fight sackings
NUJ members outside the High Court defending their right to protect their sources from the state
THE NUJ is fighting compulsory redundancies following a merger of journalist roles at the Manchester Evening News (MEN) and Huddersfield Daily Examiner, as part of newspaper publisher Reach’s ‘Live model’ strategy of separating its print and digital operations.

The Huddersfield newsroom faces cuts of seven posts and at the MEN nine roles are at risk, including three photographers and two reporters. Other positions at risk include print managers and a community content curator.

The management said that new post will be created, including in video and football writers, at the MEN which will result in a ‘marginal increase’; however the chapel said this includes currently vacant posts. Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands senior organiser, said: ‘Once again our members are in the line of fire with the continued roll out of Reach’s plan to separate digital and print operations.

‘The effect is particularly serious at Huddersfield, given the existing team is so small after years of the company continually whittling away at newsroom staffing levels. ‘What seems strange is that the company expects Huddersfield to be covered with a 20 per cent reduction in reporting capacity and to also to cover Leeds in the Live experiment there.

‘I am concerned at the strains this will undoubtedly put on remaining staff and the union is clear that if anyone is to go it must be through voluntary means. We will be engaging robustly with management over this.’

The MEN NUJ chapel said staff were steadfastly opposed to the possibility of compulsory redundancies: ‘Our priority is to protect those who are directly affected by these proposals and to ensure members remaining are not negatively affected by the process of separating print and digital operations.’

The voluntary redundancy period will end on 9 July. Almost 100 jobs have already been put at risk in Reach’s regional newsrooms since February, as the company (formerly Trinity Mirror) rolled out the Live newsroom model which began in Birmingham last year.

Last month, the Carlisle NUJ chapel said it believes the future of quality local journalism, so long the bedrock of Cumbrian Newspapers (CN), is at risk as a result of restructuring to eliminate 80 per cent of staff photographer roles. In statement last Wednesday, 27 June, the NUJ said: ‘The cut from five photographers to just one at the Carlisle centre will come into effect from next week, affected staff are being made redundant on Friday 29 June.’ The local NUJ chapel said: ‘This is a cut too far.’

The latest job losses bring the toll to nearly 100 cut since Newsquest formally took over CN Group just three months ago. The presses at Carlisle were shut in the spring with 34 jobs lost as printing moved to Glasgow, and a trawl for voluntary redundancies resulted in 40 more employees leaving.

From a total staff of more than 300 before the takeover, it is estimated the number of posts left at CN will be below 200 – in a geographical region where jobs are already sparse. Staff have also received no pay rise in nine of the past 12 years – their last pay rise was in 2015.

The NUJ chapel added: ‘When Newsquest bought the company, NUJ members knew and accepted changes lay ahead. Every company wants a sustainable future, and we, of course, support this. ‘We appreciate that Newsquest, and our industry, faces unprecedented change and challenge as we adapt to the rapidly evolving digital age. ‘Despite these difficulties, our newspapers and magazines have punched above their weight and been a beacon of quality local journalism.

‘This has been underlined by numerous national and regional accolades that our titles and our staff have won in recent years – against rivals in bigger cities with more resources. We are proud of this culture of journalistic excellence. ‘To Newsquest’s credit, we understand there are plans to recruit reporters in Carlisle, bolstering a team that has been drastically reduced over recent years – to around a quarter of the number CN had in Carlisle a decade ago.

‘But we believe massively reducing the number of staff photographers to cover an area the size of north Cumbria will ultimately harm the business, when we all want it to succeed.
‘Our NUJ chapel is increasingly concerned for the future of quality journalism that has long been the bedrock of Cumbrian Newspapers.’

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists has called on An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to clarify criticism made by him of the Irish media in New York during his official visit to the city. Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, has expressed concern at Varadkar’s expression of ‘sympathy’ with Donald Trump’s view of the media, describing it as a ‘spectacular own goal’ in the context of Ireland’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

According to reports in The Irish Times and Times, Leo Varadkar told a lunch attended by members of the Irish diaspora that he sympathised with President Trump’s views on the media and criticised political coverage in Ireland. He is reported to have been critical of named RTÉ programmes and was quoted as saying that journalists ‘were never held to account when they make mistakes’.

The lunch, held in the official residence of Ireland’s most senior diplomat in New York, formed part of the official visit to the city to mark the launch of Ireland’s bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Séamus Dooley, said: ‘Mr Varadkar needs to clarify his comments as a matter of urgency. If the object of the visit to New York was to project Ireland as a modern democracy then expressing sympathy with Donald Trump’s views on the media was a spectacular own goal by An Taoiseach. ‘Freedom of expression is a core principle of the United Nations. Donald Trump has shown nothing but contempt for the media and it is disturbing that Leo Varadkar should in any way align himself with the views of the American president on this issue.

‘He is clearly unaware of the impact on Irish journalism of Ireland’s libel laws. He also seems unaware of the work of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Press Council of Ireland, in terms of media accountability. ‘An Taoiseach’s criticism of RTÉ is especially concerning since it suggests a hostility towards an organisation which, by definition, requires the goodwill and support of government. His reported comments on Prime Time, if true are gratuitous and insulting.’


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