US owners of Scottish Herald titles Gannett are living up to their name as they push for more profits through enforcing job cuts.
The company who also own US Today have told shareholders to expect $1.3billion in rewards over the next few years. To do this they are demanding more from their titles across Scotland and England.
Up to 20 editorial jobs are at risk in the Scottish titles but journalists at The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times, remain committed to challenging the job cuts at Gannett’s UK company (Newsquest) and are voting in another ballot for industrial action.
The daily reality for Newsquest journalists is the company continue to slash jobs. Newsquest have refused to move on compulsory redundancies that could have been avoided if the company agreed to offer a better redundancy deal rather than the statutory terms. The current cost cuts across editorial, advertising and circulation is expected to generate savings of around £700,000.
As well as the job cuts the union is concerned about the introduction of a new editorial system, which appears to be a threat not only to jobs but editorial quality as the company tries to reduce the number of sub-editors. Interestingly sub-editors who have been pushed out of Newsquest have been snapped up by rival titles such as The Scotsman, whose management are more willing to work with the NUJ to ensure there are sufficient staffing levels to address the introduction of new technologies.
Last week the union announced that journalists at the NUJ Glasgow Herald and Times chapel voted decisively by 86 per cent for strike action and 96 per cent for action short of a strike. Rather than accepting the will of the union members and negotiate, the company resorted to using Thatcherite, anti-union laws to stop the action. The NUJ is now re-balloting members, at Scottish Newsquest titles in the wake of legal threats challenging the first ballot on minor technicalities.
Paul Holleran, NUJ National organiser for Scotland accused the company of ignoring its own staff:
“Rather than acknowledge the overwhelming result of the ballot and the strength of feeling that exists amongst their journalists and making efforts to resolve the dispute, Newsquest has chosen to ride roughshod over the democratic decisions taken by staff with an attempt to block strike action by exploiting the many hurdles created by anti-trade union legislation.
“The reality is that their actions do nothing to dissipate the anger and frustration our members feel at The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times and merely renews their collective determination to fight these poorly thought out proposals, even if means action is temporarily delayed. The re-ballot shows the unity of the chapel and the strength of feeling amongst our members. Gannett has a total revenue of £848million yet they want to keep on cutting jobs and make compulsory redundancies on what are nearly statutory terms.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“Decisions taken by Newsquest management in London are gradually eroding the Scottish titles. In the past similar decisions have been rewarded with a bonus pot for directors worth £240,000. It is an utter disgrace that big business is allowed to destroy people’s livelihoods and squeeze the life out of newspaper titles so that those at the top can fill their own pockets.
“It seems that greedy managers in London are interfering in Glasgow as rivals jockey to replace the chief executive Paul Davidson before the end of the year. The Scottish job cuts are signed off by London with a total disregard for local readers, local journalists and the titles they produce. The NUJ calls on Newsquest and its parent company Gannett to stop slashing jobs.”
The scale of the cuts is shown by the fact that the NUJ in a previous ballot against compulsory redundancies had over 250 members that is now down to 124. Circulation and advertising revenues have fallen and the union blames the fall in quantity of editorial staff for both falling profits and quality of journalism. The ballot result is expected on Wednesday the 27th of August.
The NUJ Scottish Executive Council have also expressed their concern as to the further diminution of quality journalism in the lead up the independence referendum. They are angry that at a time when the people of Scotland should be benefiting from expanded delivery of balanced news and information, it is becoming increasingly difficult for remaining staff to cover all relevant issues in detail designed to help people make up their mind in the referendum.