Union sets out key demands in response to cuts proposals at Reach plc

  • 21 Jul 2020

NUJ reps have decided their collective response to the proposed job cuts.

NUJ representatives working for Reach plc have come together as a group chapel to discuss and decide their collective response to the 580 job cuts proposed by the company.

The union has been told that more than 300 job cuts will affect journalists.

As a priority the union is seeking to reduce the number of job losses, retain in-house experience and local knowledge – key facets for producing quality journalism, and essential for preserving the company's credibility and reputation.

The union also wants to prevent compulsory redundancies among NUJ members and improve the existing, inadequate minimum-payment redundancy scheme that is currently on offer to those working in the Local World subsidiary.

The job cuts are accompanied by a series of restructuring proposals that are extremely complex, involving multiple businesses and functions; the details require considerable deliberation and liaison with those affected. The union is therefore insisting that Reach managers do not try to railroad through the changes and instead show how their plans will improve the company's fortunes.

Going forward the NUJ wants to secure decent, reasonable and safe working conditions for all employees and the union intends to argue for better and sustainable practices across the business.

The NUJ has now written to the company, on behalf of the group chapel, to raise a number of key issues relating to the collective consultation process that was initiated on Friday 17 July. As a first step the letter calls on the company to immediately extend the timetable to allow for more meaningful and reasonable collective consultation with the employee representatives.

The letter also expresses concern that the company's plans appear to again undermine the print segment of the business – which provided 84 per cent of the total revenue for Reach plc last year.

Whilst the NUJ recognises that advertising – both print and digital – has fallen dramatically since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March, NUJ members remain concerned that the digital income has failed to replace lost print earnings over the last decade and it appears likely to continue this trend.

The union believes the latest proposals are primarily a cost-saving exercise that risks accelerating the decline of the company overall and at this critical time. If the current proposals remain unchanged they could put even more jobs at risk as a consequence and at a later date.

Chris Morley, Reach NUJ national coordinator, said:

"The enormous challenge of recent months for our members, working against incredible obstacles thrown up by the pandemic, to produce quality journalism is now turning into a struggle to remain their community's journalistic champion.
"From the soundings we have taken since the announcement to the City of these big job losses, members have not bought into this vision that they believe threatens to weaken the company's core revenue producer, print, still further. The jury is still out on the company's overarching digital strategy ever producing the money it needs to.
"Our members want the company to succeed but they want to be treated fairly and decently and if they are staying with the business, they want to have good conditions where they are not being put under undue pressure to deliver unreasonable expectations."

Martin Shipton, Reach NUJ group chapel FoC, said:

"During the collective consultation, NUJ reps will be seeking to minimise job losses, arguing that there should be no compulsory redundancies and insisting that quality journalism is the key to the group's future being a success. The 'one trick pony' business model based on increasing the number of digital page views has not fulfilled its promise and the group should be investing in its newspapers, which continue to provide the bulk of its revenue."

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