Thirty-five editorial jobs are to go at the Manchester Evening News – with 27 journalists set to be among the casualties, more than a fifth of their number at the paper.
The company wants to change the way it works in order to “thrive in a digital future”.
The cuts are as a result of work by management consultants and will mean that the features and news subs’ desks will be merged. The remaining job losses would be among clerical staff.
The title will also rely totally on freelance agency and casual photographers, a move which means that none of the six staff snappers will be kept on.
The company is also proposing that editorial staff will work flexibly across mornings, afternoons, evenings and weekends.
Guardian Media Group regional chief executive Mark Dodson said: “The MEN faces one of the most challenging periods in its history. There has been an economic and structural shift in its income streams and the business has to fundamentally change if it is to thrive in a digital future.
“The changes that we propose unfortunately involve a number of job losses.
“We understand that this is a difficult time for our colleagues but we will work closely with the staff and their representatives to make sure that the process is as straightforward as possible.”
The job losses are part of a company wide review undertaken by the Regional Newspaper Division. It is unconnected to any other part of Guardian Media Group’s business in the UK and is limited to the Regional Newspaper Division only.
The newspaper is already working on formal consultations with the National Union of Journalists and the clerical union AMICUS.
“We will be reviewing our current four-edition structure, but this will take place once we know who is volunteering and look at the skill sets of those who remain.
“We have already had a number of volunteers coming forward since the announcement yesterday.”
He added that staff had been told that redeployment would be considered, and that the decision to use casual staff and freelances instead of staff photographers was a “cost issue”. He also said the closure of some district offices was a possibility.
He said: “Our whole operation is being reviewed and this includes how many district offices we have and whether it would be better to redeploy staff to our head office.”
According to the NUJ, staff were “stunned” at the news.
Members yesterday voted unanimously for a ballot on industrial action. A chapel meeting also passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the management and the editor of the paper.
It said managers told staff the changes were based on data supplied by management consultants Collinson Grant, and added that the reason given for the cuts was that recruitment advertising was down and that profit forecasts were not good. However, last year saw record profits of £32m.
NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We see no need whatsoever for these shocking redundancies, to the contrary, the company should be investing more in good journalists and good journalism.
“There has been talk of broadening the digital presence and if this is the case jobs should be transferred not lost. We will not tolerate compulsory redundancies.”
Formal talks between union and management began yesterday afternoon and will be followed by a chapel meeting. Union reps will be recommending a ballot for industrial action if there are any compulsory redundancies.
Initially voluntary redundancies will be sought and staff have a week to come forward.