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NUJ reaction to the closure of Independent print titles

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12 February 2016

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Today’s announcement realises the worst fears of staff on the Independent and Independent on Sunday. To close these historic titles overnight after a deal clinched behind closed doors, without any consultation or attempts to engage with staff, demonstrates the contempt the company has for its workforce.
"For Evgeny Lebedev to laud  closures that will see staff lose their livelihoods as an ‘historic transition’ is an added indignity. The fact that our national newspapers can be shut down overnight with no scrutiny and no ability for their future to be secured through other means, underlines the moral bankruptcy of newspaper ownership in the UK. That needs to be urgently addressed. The NUJ will do all it can to support all members affected."

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"The closure of the Independent titles is a massive blow to the industry. Experienced staff who have been committed to the idea and ideals of the titles, in some cases for decades, are facing losing their jobs in shocking circumstances.
"The public has been robbed of titles whose loss leaves press plurality, opinion and ownership narrowed and diminished. The way staff have had to learn about what's happening through the pages of other papers is simply appalling. We are calling on the company to enter into urgent talks with the NUJ, to meet their legal obligations and to treat their staff with humanity."

The NUJ has sent a letter to Steve Auckland, CEO of the Independent and Evening Standard, demanding talks. The NUJ chapel will be meeting on Monday.
The titles' owner Evgeny Lebedev said the Independent’s last edition is expected to be on Saturday 26 March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected on Sunday 2 March. His statement said:

"Today the Independent titles announce an historic transition. At a time when our journalism is read and respected by more people in more places than ever before, we are embracing an exclusively digital future with and its associated sites.
"We faced a choice: manage the continued decline of print, or convert the digital foundation we’ve built into a sustainable, profitable future. In choosing the latter, we will create 25 new content roles, launch a new subscription mobile App, enhance the redesigned, thriving, open new editorial bureaux in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and invest further in our New York based US operation. We will re-name the hugely successful i100 site as
"I can now confirm we are selling The Independent’s sister paper, i, to Johnston Press, subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval. In addition, we will cease to print The Independent and Independent on Sunday. The Independent’s last edition is expected to be on Saturday 26th March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected be on Sunday 20th March, enabling us to focus our collective energy on the digital Independent.

"I believe this is the right decision at the right time for the world’s most free-thinking newsbrand. This transition follows rapid digital growth in the past three years that has made the UK’s fastest-growing quality newspaper site. Its monthly audience has grown 33.3% in the last 12 months to nearly 70 million pointing towards a fast growing global footprint.

"We will be the first of many leading newspapers to embrace a wholly digital future. All of us are immensely proud of the Independent titles, which are better newspapers now than they have been for many years, thanks to your remarkable creativity, work ethic and passion. But UK print newspaper market conditions mean this change is inevitable.

"The planned sale to Johnston Press ensures that i will continue to flourish. Johnston Press will be commendable owners of this great, innovative newspaper, whose success has defied industry predictions, and which was named National Newspaper of the Year last year.
"We expect a significant number of employees to move across to Johnston Press under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE. A number of employees at Independent Print Limited will be made redundant. I regret this, but can confirm that all those on employment contracts and long term casuals who are being made redundant will receive two weeks’ pay, subject to conditions, for every year worked, plus your notice period.
"The Independent will now offer advertisers access to the world’s largest commercial platform for truly independent journalism. My family bought and invested heavily in the titles because we believe strongly in its values. Its journalism has set the agenda for nearly three decades, with world-class writing, reporting and analysis.
"Over the past six years alone we have launched a sister title that now outsells The Guardian, grown to nearly 70 million global users a month, and won countless awards for our unique contribution to news and culture, with values of bravery, compassion, scepticism and wit to the fore.

"With the spirit of a start-up, and all the authority of our heritage, this transition means the world’s most innovative newsbrand can embark on a sustainable future. As we set about that, I would like to thank everyone for the part they have played in the development of this great institution."

Tags: , national newspapers, independent, independent on sunday, lebedev, i newspaper, johnston press, media plurality