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Manchester journalists denounce Guardian Media cuts

10 March 2009

Journalists working for Guardian Media Group have said that they will not tolerate compulsory redundancies. Their statement comes after the company announced massive cuts to its titles in the north west of England.

A statement from the Manchester Evening News and Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers NUJ chapels reads:

Guardian Media Group has just announced it is making 78 journalists redundant and closing all its weekly newspaper offices in Greater Manchester – 39 jobs will go at the Manchester Evening News and another
39 at the weeklies. Further cuts in advertising, distribution and IT will bring the total job losses to 150.

The weekly papers, part of MEN Media, will continue to be produced, but will be subbed and designed at the Manchester Evening News offices at Scott Place, Manchester, by a combined pool of journalists. It is anticipated that although some of the job cuts will be filled by volunteers, the large figure demanded by the company means that many will be compulsory. There have never been any compulsory editorial redundancies at the MEN before.

Over the past couple of years, there have about 50 editorial redundancies at the Manchester Evening News and others at the weekly titles as well as drastic changes in working practices. GMG has just announced a company-wide pay freeze, which the Guardian and Observer NUJ chapels had already rejected.

The Guardian and Observer chapels also passed a vote of no confidence in the GMG board for announcing the pay freeze while approving large bonuses for directors. For the Scott Trust to allow such devastating jobs cuts like this to profitable regional newspapers that play a vital democratic role is totally unacceptable.

Quality, independent journalism – holding authorities to account, campaigning on behalf of readers, and doing so to professional standards of fairness and accuracy with no agenda other than the public interest – is more important now than ever, a fact acknowledged by GMG chief executive Carolyn McCall in a speech to Cardiff Business Club in 2008.

As CP Scott said in his centenary lecture, which laid the foundation of the Trust's values, a newspaper is 'much more than a business'. It 'reflects and influences the life of a whole community' and has a
'moral as well as a material existence'.

For decades, the Guardian has survived thanks to creaming off profits made by the Manchester Evening News and its weekly satellite newspapers. Trying to squeeze every penny of profitability out of regional newspapers, with no thought to the effect on journalists' ability to do their job, flies in the face of the Trust's values and the principles behind the Guardian's liberal journalism.

A joint statement issued by Judy Gordon, NUJ mother of the chapel (MoC) at the MEN and M/FoCs of the the weeklies, Joe Slade and Bethan Dorsett, said:

"There is some hard talking to do now. We cannot stomach a pay freeze for the masses alongside bonuses for the top table.
"We anticipate real, practical difficulties producing our weekly newspapers alongside the MEN. We fear for local democracy and for the damage to regional journalism.
"We are also completely opposed to compulsory redundancies and will not tolerate the sacking of any journalist. Management needs to understand that. They need to talk to us quickly and constructively about how we can avoid compulsory job losses. If they don't, we are in for a torrid time."

Tags: , newspapers, cuts, redundancies, manchester evening news, greater manchester weekly newspapers, guardian news and media, guardian, observer, scott trust