Last week the NUJ condemned the decision by Newsquest to move titles to digital only, weeks after informing the culture secretary her intervention in the merger may cause 'harm to the Archant staffing, titles and journalism.'
The move follows Newsquest’s acquisition of Archant in March, and concerns from NUJ members about possible implications for staff terms and conditions and job security. The union wrote to the company’s chief, Henry Faure Walker, seeking clarity on the deal and raising member concerns.
The closure of titles including Felixstowe Extra in print circulation for less than six months, comes as yet another consequence of senior management decisions at the organisation.
Despite considering an intervention in the merger due to concerns over competition, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confirmed she’d be taking no action earlier this month.
Nadine Dorries, culture secretary said: “I have decided not to intervene in the merger. The information provided by the parties addressed my concerns regarding the potential grounds for a public interest intervention, including the need, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable, for a sufficient plurality of views in newspapers in each market for newspapers in the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.”
Chris Morley, Newsquest national coordinator, said: “Newsquest’s record of acquisitions over the years is a trail of job losses and closures and so it was surprising that the culture secretary was not more rigorous about seeking guarantees from the company about its intentions.
“It appears that Newsquest used the threat of closures and job losses to get its way with Archant – but that is exactly what it is now proceeding to do.
“The standard Newsquest operating procedure has been to dismantle local management structures, and then move on to the wider staffing. An announcement putting commercial staff at risk of redundancy has already been made.
“Our members at Archant are under no illusion that further cost-cutting is the Newsquest way.
“It is entirely regrettable that the culture secretary’s resolution to intervene in the takeover collapsed at the first whiff of alarm spread by Newsquest about such delays causing ‘further harm’ to Archant’s staffing, titles and journalism.
“Instead the white flag has been hoisted and Archant employees have now been left to the tender mercies of Newsquest unrestrained – something the NUJ is all too familiar with in destroying the jobs of members.”
In March, the union’s concerted campaigning efforts and plans to ballot for industrial action over proposed redundancies for the entire features team at The Herald, led to Newsquest reversing its plans. High workloads and unmanageable targets have contributed to poor mental health of the company’s employees and the latest announcement is likely to worsen this further, says the union.
The NUJ have said that they will be contacting Newsquest to seek clarity on the impact on jobs, and any other proposals planned.