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Alpha rejects talks on Irish newspaper closures

1 September 2010

Alpha Newspapers Group has refused to meet union representatives to discuss the company's closure of the Roscommon Champion, Longford News and Athlone Voice. The NUJ has strongly condemned their refusal.

Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish Organiser, is to meet NUJ members in Longford today in advance of individual meetings organised by Jonathan Taylor, Alpha Managing Director, tomorrow. While members may be accompanied to these meetings, Jonathan Taylor is refusing to engage in negotiations with the NUJ.

The union wants to discuss alternatives to closure and, if closure does take place, redundancy terms. Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, also criticised Alpha Group owner Lord Kilclooney's performance on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland programme this morning, in which he misrepresented the views of staff in the newspapers.

Séamus Dooley said:

"NUJ members want management to sit down and negotiate collectively with their union representatives. NUJ chapels have negotiated with this company up to now and have had to accept the imposition of pay cuts.
"In his Morning Ireland interview, Lord Kilclooney said that staff had showed understanding and claimed to have received congratulatory messages and texts. This frankly beggars belief and should not have gone unchallenged.
"The staff of the Roscommon Champion issued a strong statement laying the blame for the closure of their long established newspaper at the failure to invest in editorial resources and an insistence on management from the Northern Ireland headquarters of the company, with no regard for local needs.
"Lord Kilclooney's analysis is simplistic. There can be no doubt that the recession has had a major impact on regional media. However the major casualties have been new arrivals on the regional landscape. To compare the Roscommon Champion and the Longford News, both established titles, with relatively editorial short-lived initiatives, is a distortion of the situation.
"With editorial investment at least two of the three titles have a future and it is extremely regrettable that the company decided to take the papers off the streets. It would be far easier to find a buyer and to maintain the loyalty of advertisers and readers if the papers remain in circulation pending acquisition by a new owner or owners.
"The old newspaper maxim 'never miss an edition' still holds true today and I would urge Lord Kilclooney to ensure that the titles are published next week. If closure is the option then he should at last ensure that staff are treated with fairness and respect. That means entering into negotiations with their union and offering redundancy terms which recognise their loyalty and dedication, loyalty that up to now has not been reciprocated."

Tags: , alpha newspaper group, closure, newspapers, longford news, athlone voice, roscommon champion, lord kilclooney, rté, radio, morning ireland