Up to 100 jobs are set to be lost as part of a regional publisher’s group-wide reorganisation, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.
As HTFP revealed on Friday, Johnston Press told staff to expect cuts to be made in “a number of areas” across its business and promised a series of follow-up announcements giving more specific detail of how individual publishing centres are affected.
The BBC has also reported that JP plans to cut 13 editorial jobs in Northern Ireland where it publishes Belfast daily the News Letter as well as a chain of weeklies.
The NUJ has put the total number of jobs set to go across the UK as a whole at “almost 100.”
However a Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “The figures quoted by the NUJ are worst case scenario and we will only know the outcome after the consultation period.”
As well as the plans affecting Scotland and Northern Ireland, the union claims up to 10 editorial posts are at risk in the North-East of England and eight in the North West.
However it is understood that a number of vacancies which have not been filled owing to a recruitment freeze may count towards the total in these regions.
The union has also claimed that 22 editorial management roles – editors, content editors and deputies – are facing the axe across the UK.
And it says plans to centralise the group’s design hub operation to Sheffield will put up to 15 jobs at risk in Edibnrugh and Peterborough.
The company’s South of England titles appear to have largely escaped the cull with no reporter cuts planned in the region.
However, according to the NUJ, there will be a review of management roles and four current vacancies at Portsmouth daily The News will not be replaced, although the company says no decision has been made about this.
The changes follow a memo sent to all staff from group editor-in-chief Jeremy Clifford on Friday morning.
In it he outlined the rationale behind the plans, saying consideration was being given to whether there is the right mix of managers, writers and “those who curate and collate content from our communities”.
Wrote Jeremy: “We expect the review of our newsroom structures will lead to a reorganisation for some of our teams as well. In some cases that will mean a reduction in team sizes.
“We have identified a number of areas where job reductions will come from and how that may affect different teams directly. Later today a number of announcements will be made about some of those proposals.
“These will set out our intention but it will take some time to work out the detail of those changes and how we want our organisations to operate in future.
“I know, and appreciate, that this is not news you want to hear, especially after such a challenging year. The rate and pace of change is unsettling and sometimes it feels pretty relentless. I wanted to set out the context of why we are taking these actions.”
The restructure comes after the company’s ‘Newsroom of the Future’ initiative, which sees journalists working across multiple titles within the same region, was introduced nationwide after a September 2014 trial.
It is understood that staff have been given a deadline of 29 January to apply for voluntary redundancy.
The NUJ group chapel at JP said in a statement: “Friday’s announcement has caused panic among our members. It is very difficult to see how the company can continue to function after yet more editorial job cuts.
“The lack of consultation also raises concerns that this could be to make short-term savings which will ultimately be self-defeating.
“Newsrooms around the company are already carrying high levels of staff vacancies and we hope the company is fully aware of this.
“Meaningful talks need to happen as a matter of urgency and our members should be involved in any decisions about possible restructuring.”
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “This is devastating news to begin 2016 with. Members are already stretched to cover gaps as a result of jobs not being filled last year and previous rounds of cuts.
“There are big concerns about the content that can realistically be produced under such straightened circumstances. The pressure to meet financial targets appears to be influencing internal decisions, alongside the slowing down of digital advertising revenue growth.
“We would like an open discussion with the company about why they have taken this decision and what has prompted this announcement. We need a meaningful consultation with our members about the way forward.
“There needs to be a proper plan. We need a strong local press with journalists able to do the job they came into it to do.”
Commenting on the Scottish proposals, NUJ Scotland national organiser Paul Holleran said: “It would be an understatement to say that journalists across Johnston Press are shocked at this latest round of job cuts.
“The NUJ will work with local management to mitigate the redundancies and their impact on the quality of titles but we are seriously concerned at this announcement.”