National Union of Journalists members at The Scotsman group of newspapers are to be balloted on whether to register their concern over the proposed implementation of a new content management system that threatens the loss of between 10 and 12 production posts.
It follows a meeting yesterday of the NUJ chapel at The Scotsman, plus sister titles, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News. It was responding to news last week that Johnston Press is planning to introduce the Atex content management system, which is understood to reduce the need for sub-editors.
Yesterday, it was also revealed that the NUJ plans to lobby the annual general meeting of The Scotsman's publishers, Johnston Press, which is taking place on Friday, in Edinburgh.
On the same day, strike action over the introduction of Atex is taking place at a Johnston Press centre in Scarborough while more than 20 chapels at Johnston Press newspapers across the north of England and Yorkshire are to ballot their members on possible strike action, on the same issue.
Scotsman management is appealing for applications for voluntary redundancy to reduce the number of production staff.
Says a memo sent out by the Scotsman group chapel: “[We] take the view that there should be no redundancies until Atex is up and running smoothly. Then – and only then – we should be able to identify where there are 'efficiencies'.
“Obviously, there will be members who want to go for voluntary redundancy. While we wouldn't stand in the way of anyone who really wanted to leave, we would urge you to let your Mother/Father of Chapel know beforehand. This will help us to monitor how many staff are going, where this creates pressure points for remaining staff and lets us negotiate on re-training and re-deployment of affected staff.”
The wording of the ballot paper has yet to be exactly decided, but it is expected to include a determination to resist any compulsory redundancies, to refuse to take on any work that may be transferred to Scotland from other Johnston Press centres that are in the middle of a dispute and to ask Johnston Press to engage in 'meaningful consultation' concerning workflow, training and staffing levels relating to the introduction of Atex.
Please note: An earlier version of this story quoted a NUJ memo claiming that The Scotsman management had actually increased the sizes of the papers after promising to reduce them. In fact, the size of The Scotsman has reduced by seven per cent in the past year, from average weekly paginations of 593 in the six months to the end of June last year, to 553 now. The 'main book' was running at 440 per week in the six months to June last year and is now down to 434. The magazines were accounting for 85 pages before and now are at 60 pages. The relevant paragraph from the memo has now been removed.