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Union condemns Newsquest's Christmas cuts

29 November 2019

NUJ members in Cumbria and Darlington have been informed of hefty new cuts to local newspapers owned by Newsquest. 

The union and local journalists have unfortunately become accustomed to the company wielding the axe on jobs and quality local journalism just before Christmas.

The editor at the Carlisle News and Star is leaving without replacement and at the Workington and Whitehaven titles the associate editor and content editor are both at risk of redundancy. The editor of the Westmoreland Gazette in Kendal has also been put at risk. The company are now starting a two-week consultation on the redundancies.

The arts and leisure writer at Westmorland Gazette is still engaged in a redundancy consultation with the company and an editorial assistant left the newspaper today.

Journalists working on Carlisle features, and the arts and leisure writer in Kendal have both had their consultations extended for a week until 6 December.

If these job cuts go ahead they will leave only one group editor in Carlisle to edit all the titles in Cumbria. The company have just moved to promote one member of staff to become the deputy group editor. The daily title, The Mail, in Barrow has not had its own dedicated editor for years.

Meanwhile, the union has also been told that as well as losing their IT technician as part of a nationwide cull of 14 jobs altogether, journalists at Darlington were informed that the post of weekly multi-media content manager was being axed, along with a sports editor (production) and a freelance specialist writer. The flagship daily title there is the Northern Echo. The multi-media content manager is responsible for producing much of the weekly Darlington and Stockton Times.

The NUJ Darlington chapel said:

"The chapel has already raised concerns about the level of staffing, workloads and consequences for the health and well-being of members, so the announcement of further redundancies at this time is devastating to all concerned. Five senior reporters have already left the company this year for better jobs. We believe the situation in editorial is at crisis level and would like to see the company address this issue urgently."

Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ group chapel coordinator, said:

"Yet again, as we approach Christmas as the season of goodwill, the ghost of Scroogequest looms large for journalists within Newsquest. Haunted by low pay and relentless workloads that produce unsafe levels of stress for its journalists, the company is yet again recklessly picking off editorial workers seemingly at will at the hardest possible time to be made redundant.

"Many of the workers being cast aside are crucial to the output of their titles and associated websites and colleagues find it difficult to understand how any semblance of quality can be maintained once they leave. The job losses are most often older, more experienced staff whose local knowledge and invaluable experience are being lost to the detriment of their local communities.

"We challenge Newsquest to show that it is safe to make these cuts and will not pose a risk to the health of those expected to pick up the pieces. We think this is no way to run a company that is reputed to be in pole position to acquire a big rival with all the responsibility that will entail to the state of UK journalism."

There has already been a long list of cuts announced around the country, reported by Hold the Front Page as follows:

Newsquest has confirmed the closure of the Chorley Citizen and also announced cutbacks at centres in Lancashire, Shropshire, Wales, Berkshire and Swindon in addition to those previously announced in Carlisle, Glasgow, Dorset and Hampshire.

The two remaining staff photographers from Newsquest’s North and Mid-Wales titles are believed to be at risk along with the ad design teams currently based at Welshpool, Oswestry and Colwyn Bay.

A feature writer and deputy sports editor are at risk in Swindon, while redundancies, including a staff photographer, have also been proposed in Berkshire.

Three positions are further understood to be at risk at the company’s Lancashire titles which include the Lancashire Telegraph and Bolton News.

The latest cuts come in the wake of a number of other job losses at Newsquest centres in recent weeks.

Earlier this month it was revealed up to seven jobs were set to be lost at the company’s titles in Cumbria, while staff at Glasgow-based newspapers The Herald and Herald on Sunday were told the company may be forced to make compulsory redundancies unless “a number” of journalists volunteered to leave.

National Union of Journalists members working for Newsquest in Glasgow are currently being balloted on possible industrial action over the plans.

Elsewhere, five journalism jobs including an editor role are set to be made redundant as part of cutbacks affecting the Southern Daily Echo, Bournemouth Echo and Dorset Echo.

Tags: , local journalism, local media, local news matters, newsquest, gannett, job cuts, redundancies, redundancy, cumbria, darlington, carlisle, carlisle news and star, workington, whitehaven, workington times and star, whitehaven news, westmorland gazette, kendal, barrow, the mail, northern echo, darlington and stockton times, newsquest group chapel