Compulsory redundancies have been announced at the Herald & Times Group – which publishes The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times newspapers.
The move follows an unexpected increase in the number of posts originally earmarked for redundancy, from “about ten” to – according to a memo issued by editor-in-chief, Jonathan Russell – “around 13″.
Russell addressed the staff this afternoon and then followed it up with an email containing the transcript of what he had said.
He said six applications for voluntary redundancy had been accepted by management – from production, sports production and multimedia, including both full-time and part-time positions. It was now time to move towards compulsory redundancies, added the memo, with group-wide production, features, politics (London), multimedia, editorial administration and news the target areas.
Various meetings of members of the National Union of Journalists at the papers have repeatedly voiced their opposition to compulsory redundancies.
But the severance terms for volunteers – 'statutory' as opposed to the enhanced packages of the recent past – have clearly failed to attract sufficient numbers of applicants for voluntary redundancy. Statutory redundancy amounts to one week's pay for every year at the company for those aged under 41; one-and-a-half weeks for those 41 and above.
A deadline for voluntary redundancies had been extended by a week to last Friday. A consultation process involving the NUJ is set to end next Friday, with the redundancies to be implemented by Boxing Day.
Morale at the papers ahead of the announcement will not have been helped by staff being required to explain they worked as hard at home as they would have done in the office, because of travel difficulties caused by the recent poor weather…or have the perceived 'time off' converted to a drop in pay or use of holiday time.
Said Paul Holleran, Scottish Organiser, NUJ: “This is a shocking decision to go for compulsory redundancies which will seriously damage the morale and commitment of editorial staff. People have walked into work this week through snow and ice and this is the company response: sacked two weeks before Christmas.”
Yesterday, trade magazine, Press Gazette, was reporting that journalists at newspaper titles owned by Herald & Times parent company, Newsquest – in Blackburn, Bradford, Bolton and York – had voted in favour of industrial action over pay and conditions.