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Newsquest south London puts whole newsroom at risk of redundancy

7 September 2016

Newsquest has put its entire south London newsroom on notice of redundancy, bar the managing editor and the web editor.

The company has told its employees that four reporters, two content editors, three subeditors, an editorial assistant and the deputy managing editor will all be cut by mid-October.

The remaining staff of 12 reporters and four content editors will be expected to continue to produce 11 newspapers and eight associated websites. The reporters will be expected cover all features, sport and leisure and well as news.

Before the announcement, Newsquest’s staff were already balloting for industrial action over inadequate staffing levels, excessive workloads, reduced quality of newspapers, the health and safety of employees, plus pay.  Eight members of staff who have left since April have not been replaced.

These latest cuts come exactly a week after it was announced that none of the south London titles would continue to have professional photographers after September 11.

The titles affected include: the Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper (Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend, Greenwich and Lewisham editions) as well as their associated websites.

An NUJ chapel spokesperson said:

“Once again, Newsquest have shown flagrant disregard and contempt for their employees, their products and their readers. These new proposals will not only destroy our already struggling news room and ruin the brands we have worked hard to build up, but they are quite simply unworkable.
“Senior management refuse to meet the union or acknowledge our attempts to meet with them. Running a business in this way would be farcical if it wasn’t so tragic. We would like to repeat our invitation to managing director Tony Portelli to sit down and speak to his employees. As of yet, he remains hidden in his office.”

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"These plans are designed to tear the heart out of the local newsroom yet somehow Newsquest expects the staff to carry on as if nothing has happened, producing content for exactly the same number of titles and websites.
"It’s appalling – where is the duty of care to staff over workloads and health and safety.  Where is the care for quality and readers? Morale in the newsroom has gone through the floor and while this bombshell was in the offing the MD was heard having a laugh in his office; he didn’t have the courtesy to address staff about these plans and is in the same bunker as his CEO. Their slash and burn proposals expose the shabby reality of Newsquest’s drive for soul-less savings at the expense of absolutely anything else."

The company cited "difficult trading conditions with sustained pressure on the profitability of the group". The "new-look" newsroom would comprise 18 members and will be expected to cover the whole of south London and parts of Kent.

The London Assembly is considering holding an inquiry into the crisis in news provision in the capital.  This week Steve Reed MP for Croydon North contacted the NUJ with his concerns about the situation at Newsquest London south and this was before today's announcement.

Latest figures from Newsquest's accounts, from 2014, showed it made £60 million before tax. New figures are expected next month.

Tags: , newsquest south london, kent, london, cuts, local news matters, local newspapers, tony portelli