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Bye Bye Sly: NUJ calls for Trinity Mirror chief with faith in journalism

4 May 2012

Trinity Mirror must take on a new chief executive with a vision and a strategy to chart the newspaper group to a brighter future, the NUJ said following the announcement of the departure of chief executive Sly Bailey.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Sly Bailey has presided over ten years of cuts and decline. She has cut the number of employees by almost a half and slashed budgets in some of the most important newspaper titles in the regions and the Mirror national titles to the bone.
"While Ms Bailey received well over £12m in pay, bonuses and other benefits since her arrival, her staff have been demoralised by endless rounds of job cuts and newspaper closures. Those who remain have found it increasingly difficult to provide quality news to the communities they serve.
"A recent survey of our reps at Trinity Mirror revealed that staff shortages have meant that court cases and council meetings are not being covered and local papers are unable to fulfil their vital role as a public watchdog, holding local politicians and businesses to account.
"We said in March that Sly Bailey's continued stewardship was untenable. Her departure will be welcomed by the great majority of her staff who have seen her being rewarded for failure, while they have suffered pay freezes and increased workloads.
There is a desperate need for a fresh start with imaginative corporate leadership committed to working in partnership with the workforce to build a growing business. The NUJ hopes the group's incoming board will reject the cuts-dominated agenda that has been the characteristic of the Bailey years and show faith in quality journalism."

In March, Trinity Mirror announced a further £15 million cuts – making a total of £120m in four years – as the group announced a 40 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £74m for 2011. The newspaper group, which publishes five national papers and more than 130 regional titles, said it would be cutting pension fund payments by £69m over three years to 2015, as part of a deal to refinance its £221m debt.

In 2004, Trinity Mirror had a turnover of £1.14 billion, operating profits of £243 million and more than 11,100 staff.The 2010 annual report revealed turnover is now down 16 per cent from that period to just £761 million, operating profits have been slashed by 66 per cent to only £86 million and the total number of group employees has been cut by nearly half. The share price has lost 90 per cent of its value.

Sly Bailey made her announcement a week before Trinity Mirror's annual general meeting. She was coming under pressure from shareholders who had voiced concern over her £1.7 million pay package. She said in a statement:

"For the past 10 years I have had the privilege of being CEO of Trinity Mirror plc, a fascinating and all-consuming role. Newspapers are a business like no other. Now I feel the time has come to hand over to someone else to take up the challenge and for me to seek new challenges and opportunities elsewhere."

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said:

"I hope that during her long goodbye, she will reflect on the damage she has done to Trinity Mirror. She should forgo any sort of bonus this year. She should be called to account by shareholders at next week's AGM and not receive any payment for what is her resignation."

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern England Organiser said:

"In ten long years, Sly Bailey has brought little but demoralisation and misery to Trinity Mirror employees. She has remained impervious to the huge damage done by the ransacking of newsrooms around the group but at the same time maintained the fiction that quality journalism was not a casualty of her lust for cost cuts.
"The only lead she showed was getting her hands on the company treasury to line her own pocket. More than 1,000 journalists paid the price for the £15m she will have scooped during her tenure. This must never happen again - so shareholders must insist her successor proves their worth with real and sustainable gains and genuine leadership that has a commitment to journalism at its heart."

Tags: , trinity mirror, newspapers, sly bailey