AddThis SmartLayers

MPs call for talks over future of Post and Mail

Midlands MPs are calling for talks on plans to take the Birmingham Post weekly and move the Birmingham Mail to overnight printing as union members at the papers prepare to vote on possible industrial action.

The changes announced by Trinity Mirror on Tuesday have prompted the editors of both titles to leave their posts and placed 40 editorial and 42 non-editorial jobs under threat of redundancy.

Now Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, has tabled a Commons early day motion saying Trinity Mirror did not seek the views of Birmingham’s citizens nor elected representatives.

He also asks for the publisher to meet MPs from the Post and Mail’s readership before taking any action. The EDM has been signed by 11 other MPs.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists has announced it is balloting members in Birmingham and Coventry about strike action.

A proposed new editorial system in which reporters place copy straight onto pages could be introduced at BPM Media titles the Birmingham Post and Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph and associated weeklies.

If given the green light, the system would place the majority of sub-editor roles under threat of redundancy.

The Coventry chapel is balloting over plans to cut jobs on weekly titles while the Birmingham chapel is balloting to prevent compulsory redundancies.

A Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed that the NUJ has once again chosen this irresponsible course of action.

“The reality is simple: to secure the future of the Midlands business we have no option but to achieve a cost base appropriate to the revenue available to us in the Midlands marketplace, and that means reducing costs by £6m simply to break even next year.

“We have been engaged in a full, detailed and frank consultation process with our staff forum for nearly two months about how to address this challenge, and people across the business have been fantastic in recognising the need for change and bringing forward ideas.

“Having failed to provide any credible alternative solutions throughout this process, the NUJ are claiming not only that this was a sham, but that their members should for some reason be immune from the difficulties facing all of us.

“It is time the union faced up to the commercial challenges facing newspaper businesses and worked with employers to manage this restructure instead of continuing to trot out failed and increasingly irrelevant dogma.”


Chris Youett (23/10/2009 10:15:10)
These cuts are completely unnenessary – as the TM management are increasingly admitting in private. If TM wants to stop the rot it should try actively marketing its titles – like all other normalm companies do.
Regarding the Post & Mail’s alleged losses, the management should try charging an economic rate for digital services. Try £20 per month for the evenings and £30 per month for the morning papers.

Miles (23/10/2009 10:39:32)
HTFP readers may like to see the statements issued by the Birmingham and Coventry NUJ chapels.
They are here:

Mail hack (23/10/2009 10:41:00)
What the company doesn’t say is that it returned to a (small) profit in September in the Midlands – this is from making losses (they claimed) of £100k a week – so the figures of £6 million losses (ie much worse than 2009) which these savage cuts are based on look increasingly wrong

JP (23/10/2009 11:05:20)
While I care little for the higher echelons of Trinity Mirror, I consider it grossly misleading for the NUJ to view this scenario in ‘them and us’ terms.
It is a fact that talks were ongoing about ‘what should we do with The Birmingham Post?’ three decades and several recessions ago. Was it a region-wide paper? Should it be upgraded into a national? Should it be replaced by a Morning Mail? I am surprised that it has survived so long with such low circulation and limited appeal.
Over the same period of time, the Evening Mail has by and large failed to respond to shifting population patterns. Readership of the paper has been the ‘traditional’ Birmingham community and without trying to sound racist, its appeal lay with the historically indigenous population. Over the years that population moved out of the city into surrounding towns, the company, under several previous owners, saw fit to cut costs by closing district offices such as Stratford-upon-Avon, Leamington and so on, and pulling back from coverage of these areas.
Ex-Brummies who had adjusted to life in such areas no only found there was no content about them, but had lost all interest in reading about the city council and city problems etc because they were no longer relevant. To them, the Mail became about as relevant as buying a paper covering Glasgow, Dundalk or Los Angeles.
Again, trying to be realistic not racist, the purchase of a regular local evening newspaper as opposed to national papers or own-language weeklies seems to have been part of a western culture. Birmingham like Leicester is on its way to becoming an ethnic majority city and nobody has yet found a winning formula which can re-invent a daily local newspaper product to give it the universal appeal it for so long enjoyed, or one which can reclaim lost traditional readers who now live well outside the city.
I fear for the future of democracy in Britain because newspapers are one of its greatest cornerstone. I don’t buy evening papers now because so many of them are a throw-together of press releases, overblown downpage human interest (or disinterest) stories and emergency calls stories that are rarely followed up, the hallmark of sub-skeleton staffing levels. How much do the public miss because courts are not staffed, for instance?
Local newspaper journalism with its mass shedding of jobs is a national disaster area. I find it appalling that universities are offering media courses aplenty while they should know there are no longer sufficient jobs available for graduates by any stretch of the imagination. The country is awash with journalists trying to go freelance, and because it is a buyer’s market, rates will become far too low to provide a sustainable income.
TM cannot control the current economic climate and cannot be blamed for the acid test it has created for products where expensive advertising is being lost to the infinitely cheaper internet.
Yet again, how much, if anything, is the NUJ or any other union doing to negotiate with employees to see if retraining schemes or grant aid packages can be found, so those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own can retrain for other professions which are not in near-terminal decline?
Such a dialogue would be far more meaningful and of benefit to members than forever threatening strike action when the battle has clearly been lost. All strikes do is save TM money in not having to pay out wages, and maybe deter yet more readers.
The Mail is losing a great editor in Steve Dyson. TM might live – maybe – to regret that.

JP (23/10/2009 11:32:09)
Apologies – in the above comment, there are at least two errors. ‘Cornerstone’ should be plural, and ‘employees’ should be ‘employers’, tenth line from bottom. My sub editor has just been made redundant so I have had to write directly to a page template. At least I don’t think there is a serious libel in either.

Miles (23/10/2009 11:55:05)
No NUJ members to be forced out after strike threat at Trinity south Wales. redundant

jonno (23/10/2009 12:32:50)
It is quite amusing that Trinity Mirror accuses the NUJ of failing to provide any ‘credible alternative solutions’ throughout the so-called consultation process.
The chapel actually submitted a detailed document
several months ago offering suggested ways of boosting circulation, only for the company to totally ignore it. The company has never been able to provide any real evidence for its projected £6m loss in 2010 and, in fact, seems to be the only business systematically talking down prospects of green shoots.
Of course the consultation was a sham as TM has not moved one inch nor identified one saved job from when the NUJ leaked its proposals in the summer. The union does not try to claim that its members should be ‘immune’ from economic reality, but each of our members is a real person, possibly with a family and a mortgage, not an asset to be removed from a balance sheet in the interest of profit.

Richard Simcox (23/10/2009 13:40:02)
Well said Jonno. Good luck to the Birmingham and Coventry chapels.
I’ve written about your dispute here

RH (26/10/2009 09:09:51)
@ Chris Youett (23/10/2009 10:15):
“These cuts are completely unnenessary – as the TM management are increasingly admitting in private. If TM wants to stop the rot it should try actively marketing its titles – like all other normalm companies do.”
@ JP (23/10/2009 11:32):
“Apologies – in the above comment, there are at least two errors. ‘Cornerstone’ should be plural, and ‘employees’ should be ‘employers’, tenth line from bottom.”
It is good to know that somebody cares enough to check the accuracy of what he has written.

Putupon (26/10/2009 09:57:44)
Chris Youett is suggesting suicide for the company by suggesting they charge for online content while everyone else continues to do it for free. As for the MPs complaining they weren’t asked their opinions, how come so many of them have commented on Steve Dyson’s blog? And as for “not asking the citizens of Birmingham” that’s exactly what they did do through the paper. Do MPs expect them to put a leaflet through every door in the city? If people don’t read the paper, then they miss out on the chance to comment, and who is to blame for that? As it is, no-one’s stepped forward with a sensible alternative for the company to consider, it would seem.

Bob (26/10/2009 15:36:52)
For anyone else who finds the fact Rich Simcox keeps using job cuts to shamelessly promote his blog, and his campaign to become editor of the Journalist, his link is to a blog which basically says that if he was Journalist editor, these cuts wouldn’t be happening. Pathetic.