Union called in over fears for staff welfare at Brighton Argus
10 March 2017
Journalists at a newspaper which has changed editors three times in as many months will take part in a survey about workplace stress.
The National Union of Journalists will carry out the Health and Safety Executive survey to learn more about morale and the wellbeing of staff after a series of changes at the Brighton Argus in the past six months.
The newspaper’s NUJ chapel raised concerns over continued cuts to the editorial team – including the loss of another senior member of staff within the past two weeks – and the effect this was having on staff.
The survey will be carried out in the run up to the union’s Local News Matters week which starts on Friday 24 March. The Brighton Argus NUJ chapel said:
“As journalists we are used to facing the unexpected every day, but at present this extends beyond our roles, and we have grave concern for the future of the paper and the security of our jobs. Over the past few months members of the editorial team have faced an unprecedented amount of change – with no clear future plan in sight. The team has shrunk in the last year because of cuts made by the company and because departing staff are not being replaced.
"Cover is not being found to resolve additional temporary staff shortages. Members have also raised concerns about management and poor communication. The management's decisions appear unplanned, inconsistent and made without consideration for the welfare of staff who are committed to their jobs. It seems the company can afford to pay its chief executive huge amounts of money and appoint high-flying managers at a moment’s notice, while telling staff at the bottom of the chain cuts need to be made.
"The company has recently ended the contract of another experienced, valued and respected member of the production team which leaves the remaining staff, who each already work an average of two hours unpaid overtime a day, with even more work.
“The editorial team were invited to company drinks – which we understand were organised to thank us for our hard work and commitment. But most of us could not attend as we were buckling under a backlog of work which kept us in the office late into the night, hours after the event was due to end. For too long The Argus has run on the goodwill of staff dedicated to their work. This is taking a substantial toll on their wellbeing.”
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
“What staff at The Argus are having to put up with is appalling. There is no excuse for the way these changes have been handled by management or for some of the incidents which have been reported to us. We will now be collating the evidence through our HSE survey. Newsquest is running the Argus in to the ground without a care for readers in Brighton or for how it's damaging the morale and wellbeing of staff. There needs to be investment and proper staffing at the title to give it the chance to flourish.”
When editor Mike Gilson left the paper at the end of last year, Roy Greenslade, the Guardian's media commentator, said he had been pushed because he had pressed for investment to transform The Argus into a quality paper, but "his plans were rejected out of hand". He said: "For 20 years, I have watched the Argus’s newsroom being strangled almost to death. And its final breath cannot be far away."
The NUJ's Local News Matters Week starts on Friday 24 March. The campaign aims to reclaim a vital, vigorous press at the heart of the community it serves and to work with the public to promote the role local news plays in democracy and holding power to account.