Redundancies looming at both Herald and National newspapers

Newspapers collage

By Hamish Mackay in the Scottish Review

Industrial action could be looming over the festive period at Newsquest Scotland after journalists on its five newspapers opted for an industrial action ballot following the threat of compulsory redundancies at The Herald and the Herald on Sunday unless ‘a number’ of journalists volunteer to leave with a redundancy package.

The company had initially imposed a deadline of Monday (18 November) but this was extended to last Friday (22 November). The ballot will cover editorial staff on The Herald, the Herald on Sunday, the Evening TimesThe National and the National on Sunday, and closes on Monday 9 December.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the ballot comes after Newsquest Scotland unveiled a series of ‘structural changes’ which staff fear will have a ‘detrimental impact on the quality of their work, health and family lives’.

The possibility of industrial action blew up after Newsquest Scotland’s editor-in-chief, Donald Martin, had told staff on The Herald and the Herald on Sunday: ‘We need to find further cost and efficiency savings in our budget for 2020 to minimise the impact on profitabilty’.

As well as voluntary redundancies, Martin said the company would consider requests for ‘flexible working and reduced hours and days’. However, he warned that if voluntary redundancies were not forthcoming from ‘a number’ of journalists, the company might be forced to make compulsory redundancies.

‘He appealed to the editorial staff that he would ‘appreciate your continued professionalism and commitment at this difficult and worrying time’.

John Toner, NUJ national organiser for Scotland said: ‘Our members are very committed to providing Scotland with quality journalism, and a survey demonstrates that commitment despite the severe reduction in staffing levels over many years. This latest blow has galvanised them, and they don’t believe it is possible to work harder than they already do, with fewer people than they already have.

To add insult to injury, it was reported that Newsquest has made a substantial bid for JPIMedia’s portfolio of regional newspapers, while at the same time making cuts of up to £500,000 (at Newsquest Scotland). This news was met with incredulity by the beleaguered staff. ‘These papers and brands have been mainstays of Scottish journalism for more than a century, and staff are no longer willing to tolerate these constant and destructive cuts. As always, we remain willing to talk to Newsquest management.’

A Newsquest Scotland spokesman said: ‘We are disappointed that the union has taken this stance – particularly as they are well aware that the environment for news publishers remains very challenging due to the substantial loss of revenue to other digital advertising platforms.

‘At Newsquest Scotland we are focused on ensuring that news brands have a sustainable future – which means we need to continue to restructure how we operate to ensure we work as efficiently as possible across the business. Whilst these potential redundancies are regrettable, it means we can continue to invest in quality journalism for many years to come’.

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