Newsquest in the Midlands ordered a fresh round of job cuts despite a 40 per cent increase in profits in the previous 12 months, the NUJ claimed today.
The union says that two weeks ago managers at Newsquest Midlands South, which publishes titles such as the Worcester News and Kidderminster Shuttle, announced a wide-ranging restructure that would axe a total of seven editorial jobs.
However, the NUJ claims the company has recorded a 40 per cent rise in profits after tax to £5.22 million in 2010 – and pushed up its profit margin up to 26.4%.
The union says the profits increase was partly achieved by a £429,000 slashing of the wages bill through a combination of cutbacks, such as pushing staff to take “furloughs” or unpaid leave and redundancies that saw the workforce total reduced by more than five per cent during the year.
It claims in the latest proposals, as well as cutting editor, news desk, reporter and photographic roles, the company wants to create a sports subbing hub in Worcester that would affect the Stourbridge and Hereford operations.
Last year the company carried out the switch of news subbing at these centres against strong opposition from the NUJ chapel at Stourbridge in which members warned against the impact this would have on the newspapers’ quality.
The chapel has since complained of a series of mistakes. In one prominent case, murdered young Black Country mum Kerry Smith was called “Kelly” in a front page lead headline (see pic top).
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands organiser, said: “It is clear from the accounts that Newsquest is taking its staff for a ride by constantly telling them the business is suffering and cuts are needed – but failing to inform them that the huge profits are still rolling in.
“The NUJ challenges managers at Newsquest Midlands South to properly demonstrate that more redundancies are a necessity for survival – and not just a ploy to keep chief executive Paul Davidson in the luxury to which he is accustomed on his £612,000 salary.
“The company has many renowned titles here, some going back 320 years to the dawn of newspapers, and has a responsibility to their communities – not just shovelling money across the Atlantic to American shareholders of the parent group Gannett.“We believe that if Newsquest wants to be seen to be acting responsibly and for its Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy to be anything more than just hot air, it must listen to its own instructions. It must stop the sackings to give journalists enough of a break to produce the quality work needed to keep their titles in business for the long term.”