Morale at 'rock bottom' as Johnston Press announces more photographic redundancies
6 November 2014
Johnston Press has announced a range of job cuts for photographers across its local sites. This follows similar moves to cut photographers in the South.
In Yorkshire, management plans to cut all photographers working for the weekly titles and has said it wants to make 6.5 posts compulsorily redundant with one new job available.
Staff in the North West have been told that the photographic department will be turning into a mostly freelance operation with only three photographers remaining across Wigan, Preston and Blackpool, affecting The Gazette in Blackpool, Preston’s Lancashire Evening Post and the Wigan Evening Post.
The Scottish borders chapel are facing four photographer redundancies at the same time as the Scotsman titles are being "merged" with the potential loss of 45 jobs. The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News are affected.
The cuts will also hit the North East. It’s believed the plan is to retain two permanent photographers to provide coverage for three daily papers: the Sunderland Echo, Hartlepool Mail and Shields Gazette, plus two permanent photographers to cover the area from North of the Tyne up to the borders of Scotland - papers such as the Tweed Dale Press and papers in Alnwick, Morpeth and Whitley Bay.
The Johnston Press group chapel said:
"Morale is at rock bottom in Johnston Press, yet further cuts have been announced.
"Our members are shocked by further photographic redundancies, a move which is likely to hit the quality of newspapers and websites we produce, lead to further declining readership and harm the long-term prospects of the company.
"Alarmingly, Johnston Press management believes that more 'user generated content' is the way forward. They ignore the fact that this requires more work from editorial teams in processing submitted material, which is often of a sub-standard quality and not suitable for publication.
"Serious questions also need to be answered over whether this is a genuine redundancy process, given that the company has a track record of re-engaging photographers on a freelance basis with lower pay and worse terms and conditions."
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"We are meeting the Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport today and the impact on quality journalism from job cuts in local and regional titles is at the very top of our agenda. This is a short-sighted move by Johnston Press at a time when there is growing demand for quality pictures and videos.
"Johnston Press is in danger of leaving itself exposed to the unpredictability of the freelance market when it could retain these specialist staff as a real asset to the company. Does it really want to send out a signal that its strategy is to be firmly ahead in a race to the bottom?"
Chapels around the UK will be holding urgent meetings to discuss the latest announcements.
The announcement follows on from photographers in other areas being made redundant last year. For example, there are no longer any staff photographers in Johnston Press Northern Ireland. Only some of the previous employees are now getting freelance photography work from the company.
Read previous NUJ news about Johnston Press online.