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NUJ to challenge Newsquest's award for "better people management"

Strike by journalists on Newquest's south London papers  -  © NUJ

8 October 2015

NUJ members working for Newsquest --  and  especially those recently sacked by the newspaper group -- have reacted with complete disbelief at the news that the company has been given an Investors in People award.
Its group editorial services unit, otherwise known as the subbing hub, in Newport, was awarded the Investors in People bronze standard. The hub, which now employs 140 people, produces copy for more than 250 Newsquest publications.
Investors in People is a non-departmental public body which receives funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and sets standards for "better people management". The NUJ is now questioning the award, since the jobs in Newport are typically lower paid and lower skilled than the ones they have replaced in the regions.

A survey of more than 700 journalists, carried out over summer by the Press Gazette, found that journalists working for Newsquest were the least happy of those working for major regional newspaper publishers. It was the most poorly rated of the four biggest employers, including Trinity Mirror, Local World and Johnston Press. Staff at the publisher, owned by the American company Gannett, gave their employer a score of an average 4.3 out of 10.

One Newsquest journalist quoted in the report said: "It feels like management thinks stories grow on trees. It's not bullying, but somewhere between that and wildly high and unrealistic expectations."

The award also comes as Newsquest has been sacking its staff, leaving those left with huge workloads. It is also instituting a programme  to get rid of its photographic staff, forcing them to work as freelances on poorer contracts.

Since June, in what has become known as the "summer of sackings" and now the "autumn of axings", Newsquest has made the following cuts:

  • six photographic jobs at Wiltshire (June)
  • seven production jobs Reading and Slough (July)
  • seven  jobs in Oxford  (July)
  • two jobs at Bournemouth  (July)
  • six in south London (July)
  • six editorial jobs, including four content managers and a news editor in Wiltshire (September)
  • six photographic jobs in Bradford, Darlington and York (September)
  • three title editors and four (of five) photographers in Reading/Slough/Bracknell (September)all  three remaining photographers at Brighton (September).

This summer, staff in south London were forced to call a 12-day strike over cuts which they said had led to a reduction in the quality of the newspapers.
Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ group co-ordinator, said:

“The awarding of Investors in People Bronze Standard to Newsquest was greeted with uniform disbelief by our members. While the gong was given specifically for the Newport hub – whose staff are in an impossible position, given the huge volume of titles they handle – it is clear that the award body had no interest in seeing the wider context involved.
"In July, the NUJ was forced to categorise Newsquest’s apparent demonic devotion to redundancies as a ‘summer of sackings’ and chapels in London called 12-day strike action over savage cuts. The company’s record on employment is shocking since it neither invests in proper staffing levels nor attempts to pay its journalists decently. Most people have suffered from having virtually no pay rises for seven years.
“Our members cringe when they see the company seeking to gain ill-deserved kudos from a public body. We feel either the Investors in People organisation has absolutely the wrong criteria when judging companies such as Newsquest, or they are wilfully blind and just see any business willing to contact it as a worthy recipient of its blandishments.
"The Newport staff are caught in the crossfire. Jobs are being ruthlessly sacrificed all around the country and they being expected to pick up the pieces. But they have little time and, in many cases, inadequate training to reach the level of excellence they want to achieve and the end product shows this. We do not think Newsquest deserves this promotion and publicity and shall be examining at whether the IIP has legitimately awarded it.”

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Tags: , newsquest, local newspapers, local news matters, awards, investors in people, cuts, redundancies, sacking, photographers