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NUJ members fight closure of Edinburgh's Chambers Harrap

17 September 2009

NUJ members at Chambers Harrap, Scotland's oldest publishing company, are fighting asset-stripping plans by their London-based bosses. The Edinburgh-based company has been earmarked for closure by parent company Hachette UK.

Chambers Harrap produces titles like The Chambers Dictionary (first published 1901) and the Chambers Biographical Dictionary (first published 1897).

Hachette UK management claims to be consulting staff about "proposed" redundancies &nash; this is a 30-day formality required by law. Workers, however, believe the decision was taken months ago after a review of the business conducted without the knowledge of Edinburgh management.

Profitable titles are due be transferred to London and Paris and the Edinburgh office is due to close by the end of the year, with the loss of 27 jobs.

French-English dictionaries and other foreign-language reference works will be transferred to Paris-based Larousse – also part of the Europe-wide Hachette group. Profitable English-language titles – like The Chambers Dictionary – will be transferred to Hachette UK in London.

Hachette have justified the decision to transfer major titles to France because "the vast majority of sales for Harrap are in France". However, this has been true since at least 1992, when Chambers acquired Harrap.

Four successful editions of the flagship Shorter French Dictionary have been produced from Edinburgh since then. It remains a market leader in France and therefore a very attractive acquisition for Larousse.

The Chambers Dictionary is a favourite resource of crossword fans and has been endorsed by author Philip Pullman as "the most human of dictionaries". The eleventh edition, published in 2008 with a preface by NUJ member Jeremy Paxman, continues to sell well and to earn money for Hachette.

In a press statement released on Tuesday, Hachette UK state that they "have enormous respect for the reputation" of the Chambers and Harrap imprints, and that "the skill and experience of the staff… is admired throughout the industry."

The members of the Chambers Harrap NUJ chapel do not believe the company needs to shut and say that Hachette has not presented a convincing or coherent case as to why this is necessary. They have called on supporters to help prevent this blatant asset-stripping exercise, which would put an end to 190 years of Edinburgh publishing tradition.

Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish Organiser said:

"The NUJ is shocked at the way this company is going about dismantling a famous and successful Scottish publisher and we will be pursuing every avenue to try to keep these jobs in Scotland."

Tags: , books, closure, chambers harrap, cuts, hachette uk, larousse, edinburgh