Cuts are not the way forward, says NUJ, as jobs go at Scotsman and further "efficiency savings" planned
30 October 2014
Johnston Press (JP) cannot continue to cut its way out of difficulty, the NUJ said, as the company announced further "efficiency and restructuring initiatives" and said the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News were to merge, putting up to 45 jobs at risk.
All three titles will remain as stand-alone titles, but will be produced by the same editorial team.
Paul Holleran, the NUJ national organiser in Scotland, said:
"The scale of these cuts has come as a great shock. The union is now in negotiations with the management and has already won improved redundancy terms and an increased time scale for the changes and we intend to continue to get the best deal we can for members following this disastrous decision."
The announcement was made on the same day the company published its interim management statement which said further cuts were planned. In the past two years, JP has shed almost 1,600 staff and is currently laying off staff photographers.
The group, which also includes the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, said in its financial statement that overall revenues had fallen 3.1 per cent year-on-year in the period July to September compared to 4.3 per cent in the first half of the year. It also reported a 19 per cent increase in digital revenues for the quarter.
Its interim management statement said:
"Momentum in digital audience growth underpinned the strength of our multimedia platform, with total print and digital audience now averaging over 27m users per month, including mobile audience nearly doubling (96 per cent growth) to 6.5m average monthly unique users.
"The total digital audience was up 40 per cent year on year in September. Mobile audiences are averaging 6.5m a month for the year, representing a near doubling of year on year audience. Our Scottish Independence website had over 4.5m users, more than voted in the referendum."
The company said advertising revenues had fallen by 3.4 per cent in the third quarter, compared with 4.6 per cent in the first half. Following a debt refinancing deal this year, JP's overall debt was reduced by a third to less than £200m.
The company is selling regional TV advertising to Sky subscribers, via the Sky AdSmart scheme, and has taken 879 orders for its Digital Kitbag local marketing provider.
However, despite these encouraging figures and the expectation that it remains on target to return to growth, JP said it would make further cuts. The NUJ is carrying out a stress survey among editorial staff because the union is concerned that rising and changing workloads, alongside lower numbers of staff, are leading to more stress at work for editorial teams.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"JP can't simply continue to cut its way out of difficulty. Jeopardising quality by cutting essential roles like staff photographers is not a long-term strategy for success. The money freed up by reduced debt payments should be invested on the frontline to enable over-stretched journalists to do their jobs. Instead, they are taking on more and more work because the company is not filling vacancies to hit short term financial targets."
The NUJ's JP Group Chapel said:
"It's hard to see how the company can achieve its aim of returning to growth with huge cuts in an already overstretched workforce. There are some positive results in the interim management statement, but this is largely down to the hard work and goodwill of teams of staff who are running on empty.
"There are simply not enough staff to do the job and, alarmingly, the company is imposing further cuts, which can only add to the stress and uncertainty our members are feeling. We urge the company to engage in meaningful talks with the NUJ at the earliest opportunity about any further planned restructuring."
The Yorkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post joint NUJ chapel described the company's claim that the merger of editorial teams at their newspapers had been successful as ludicrous. It said:
"It's only the professionalism of ordinary members of staff that has kept both titles, with their wholly different readerships, working practices and culture, functioning. Readers in Scotland can expect an immediate decline in quality following the job losses and predictable further collapses in circulation – hardly an enticing prospect for advertisers, either in print or online.
"Remaining staff can expect to work longer and even harder. JP shareholders need to consider if the continual worsening in quality and relevance of the company's titles under the existing cuts-obsessed management team offers a viable long-term solution to the company's problems."