Midland News Association should "come clean" on cuts plan, say NUJ
11 November 2015
Five out of 12 photographer jobs in Wolverhampton have been put at risk of redundancy and the NUJ is calling on the company, Midland News Association, to reveal the full extent of their plans for staff.
NUJ members fear the five photographer jobs put at risk are a precursor to a bigger plan to restructure editorial work and inflict further job losses at the company. The latest announcement to axe staff has come despite healthy company accounts for last year.
Midland News Association (MNA) has two main centres at Wolverhampton and Ketley in Shropshire and they produce two daily titles: The Wolverhampton Express & Star and Shropshire Star. The company also publish a large stable of weekly titles serving the Black Country and Shropshire. The 12 photographers currently work across both MNA centres.
The Express & Star is the UK’s biggest paid for regional title. Last year the company announced 76 job cuts with 12 job losses in editorial and in 2011 the company cut 140 jobs.
The latest accounts for MNA filed at Companies House for 2014 show they achieved the "third successive year of profit growth" with a "better than forecast performance". MNA also increased operating profits by 44% to £3.6 million on a "like-for-like basis" (compared with the year before). The company also reported it had achieved a £2 million improvement in trading.
The accounts also show MNA has cut the average number of staff employed by 8% from 604 to 554, they have cut the budget for wages and salaries by nearly £770k and have also cut pension costs by £150k.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said:
"MNA, which has a long history of commitment to real local news, has now joined the cult of newspaper groups looking to produce news with as little involvement of professional staff photographers as possible.
"These are dark days for an industry that used to celebrate the great gifts that quality pictures brought to illuminate the daily news agenda. With every attack on staff photography across the industry, it is clear to me that it is a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ for these clueless executives.
"Inevitably it leaves the titles and websites open to manipulation from vested interests over what images are available to them, reduces editorial independence and leaves the suspicion that to make up numbers required in desperation, pictures might be grabbed from the internet without the necessary permissions.
"But our members at MNA, who are often run ragged with stress and anxiety due to appalling workloads and unreasonable demands, now fear that this desperate cut is merely a precursor to other imminent editorial reorganisations and job losses. The company must come clean on its intentions and justify why it needs to hack away at its overstretched staff at the further expense of plummeted morale and individuals’ health."