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Newsquest stuns staff as it proposes to cut a quarter of its Bolton staff

23 October 2015

Staff at Newsquest-owned Bolton News were reeling after management announced proposals to cut virtually a quarter of the editorial workforce.

A total of 10 jobs are at risk and the company has launched a 30-day consultation period following an announcement on Thursday 22 October.

Local MP, Yasmin Qureshi said the cuts were unjustified as the company was making a profit. She said the company needed to respond to concerns about the impact on quality and the need for investment in editorial.

The jobs of three photographers, two feature writers, a news editor, one sport content editor/writer, one content editor, an editorial content assistant and a graphic artist have been put at risk.

There are no planned cuts to the news reporting team. Staff working at Bolton produce the flagship six-days-a-week Bolton News, the Leigh Journal and the series of Bury Times Group titles including the Bury Times, Radcliffe Times and Prestwich and Whitefield Guide.

Management said that due to the “ongoing cost review of the Lancashire business”, a proposal to reduce overall costs within Bolton editorial is “under consideration”. Staff have been given until next Tuesday afternoon to apply for voluntary redundancy; the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) chapel has asked for the deadline to be extended.

David Thomson, NUJ FoC at the Bolton News, said: “This is a devastating and heart-breaking blow to the dedicated and loyal editorial staff who have been rewarded for all their hard work with just one pay rise in the past seven years and, now, the worst round of redundancies I’ve ever encountered in my 13 years as FoC here.I have never seen my colleagues as stunned and sombre as they were following the announcement.”

He challenged the company’s assertion that they needed to reduce overall costs.

“The latest accounts for Newsquest (North West), of which Bolton is an integral part, show the company’s operating profit increased from £2.6 million to £3.4 million and staff costs fell by almost £2 million. So, this is a profitable company.
 “It seems management must have a different set of numbers. I have asked for the company to fully justify the possible job losses. It is vital they make a tangible and legitimate case and back that up with proper, transparent facts and figures."

Yasmin Qureshi,  MP for Bolton South East, said:

“The Bolton News plays a vital role in serving our local community with news and information. These devastating cuts will make it more difficult to deliver the high quality content its readers and advertisers want. From the figures I have seen, Newsquest is a profitable company making any reason for these cuts all the more unjustifiable. They need to respond to legitimise concerns about increased workloads, the impact on quality and the need for investment in editorial."

Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser, said:

"This horrendous news comes just over a week after it was revealed Newsquest directors had awarded themselves a 26 per cent rise in 'performance-related payments' to a third of a million pounds. If this is performance and success I really don't want to see the failures.
"Newsquest continue to astound with a 'ground zero' approach to producing news with the fewest professional journalists anyone could imagine. How the company expects the people of Bolton and other Newsquest towns and cities subjected to these savage cuts to come running for their products after this is beyond me.

"It makes a sick joke for our members in Bolton that Newsquest was awarded a bronze Investors In People award just last month. There is no excuse for this. Newsquest is very profitable nationally - in 2014 it made £60 million and is now debt-free - and locally it actually increased profits considerably. Newsquest has failed all its obligations as a business to staff, customers and readers. Its only success has been to expatriate big profits to its American shareholders."

Newsquest North West Ltd accounts 2014

Tags: , local newspapers, local news matters, newsquest, newsquest north west, bolton news, Leigh Journal, Bury Times, Radcliffe Times, Prestwich and Whitefield Guide, redundancies, cuts