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Thirty jobs to go in North West newspapers as production moved to Wales

1 May 2014

Thirty jobs are to be lost at Newsquest titles in the North West, including the Warrington Guardian, Lancashire Telegraph and Bolton News, as production is moved to Newport, Wales.

Staff at the papers said they felt betrayed by the management and staff at Warrington criticised the "humiliating" way the news was broken to them. The journalists said they had been dedicated to the communities they served and this crucial link will be severed when production is moved the 200-plus miles to another country.

Newsquest announced it will be cutting the jobs of 17 subeditors at Blackburn and six at Warrington.

Tony Howard and Vicki Stockman, joint Father and Mother of Chapel of Cheshire/Merseyside, said:

"Even though we have been expecting this news for some time, nothing prepares people for the announcement that their careers could be finished in order to save a highly profitable company even more money. We will do our utmost to preserve as many of the six jobs going as possible and will fight for the best possible redundancy terms for those forced to leave. We will also seek to ensure remaining staff, who will be greatly affected by these changes, are protected.
"A great many issues remain unresolved and we will attempt to address those through consultation. All those affected within our chapel are union members, which gives us great unity and strength. The fact the announcement was made on International Workers' Day and the date for implementation falls on the anniversary of D-Day are ironies not lost on our hardworking, long serving, loyal staff."

Chris Gee, FoC Blackburn, said:

"Today we received the devastating news that 23 subbing and production jobs in Blackburn are to be lost, the work being transferred 220 miles away to Newport. It is our belief that the strength of a local press is founded on its connection to the communities it serves. Critical in this relationship is a clear understanding of the locality.
"Our papers should be produced in the heart of the communities they serve, not hundreds of miles away. Here in Blackburn, we have a dedicated and hardworking subbing team whose professionalism in producing the Lancashire Telegraph, Bolton News, Westmorland Gazette and associated titles, has never been called into question.

"What is the sense of dismissing this skills base, some of whom have decades of newspaper experience? This decision will cause hardship and unemployment for many sub editors because of a decision that is wholly unnecessary. The chapel believes moving these posts so far away will undoubtedly diminish the quality of the products we produce, and for what? The pursuit of short term, transient profits for Newsquest at the expense of the careers and livelihoods of hardworking, loyal staff.
"It is impossible for Newsquest management to underestimate how strongly our members feel and the action we are prepared to take to challenge the nonsensical path the company has chosen."

The announcement follows the American-owned newspaper group's decision to move the editing of its titles in the North East to the Welsh subbing-hub with the loss of 25 jobs. This led to a 24-hour strike by journalists in York, Darlington and Bradford.

Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands Organiser, said:

"The move to destroy local subbing by Newsquest in the North West, before even the full damage at sister operations in York, Darlington and Bradford has been completed, shows sheer desperation by the company to continue swinging the cost-cutting axe while rivals start to invest in editorial.
"I'm sure the workers at the Newport hub are doing their absolute level professional best to keep up quality but with the vast array of titles flying their way for subbing, it is clearly an impossible task. Our members at Blackburn and Warrington are angry now and we will do all we can to support them at this critical time."

At the NUJ's Delegate meeting last month in Eastbourne, Bob Smith, FoC of the Newsquest group chapel, said the hubs were becoming the equivalent of sweatshop call centres. He said an article by former editor Steve Dyson had enumerated mistakes and cock-ups in copy produced by the Newport hub, because the software was faulty and staff were working shifts of up to 12 to 14 hours. He said:

"Staff are working shifts of 12 to 14 hours on a poorly-designed system and it's all they can do just to get the stuff out. It is yet another nail in the coffin of local journalism."

The news from the North West came as Newsquest announced the closure of the Elmbridge Guardian in Surrey, with the jobs of three news editors put at risk. The Newsquest office at Twickenham office will close and staff will be transferred to the Sutton office.

Laura Davison, National organiser, said:

"Newsquest's cost cutting is set to deprive another community of a local paper and move others to a centralised site. Once again the speed of the closure means there is no time to look at alternatives. The community and politicians need to act to defend local news. I hope readers will let Newsquest know they want investment in journalists and quality journalism, not more cuts."

Tags: , subbing hub, newsquest, newport, cuts, warrington guardian, lancashire telegraph, bolton news, newspapers, regional newspapers, local newspapers, blackburn, warrington, cheshire, subeditors