Up to 49 compulsory job cuts are in prospect at England’s biggest-selling regional newspaper after not enough people volunteered for redundancy.
However according to an email sent to staff following a recent meeting between staff council members and management, only 41 people have so far opted for voluntary redundancy.
The email, which has been seen by HoldtheFrontPage, also reveals that managers are set to use a points system to decide who stays and who goes.
It said: “Compulsory redundancies are now being worked out by heads of department. In our case that’s the editor.
“He will have to decide which posts can be lost. Those chosen will be informed within the next two weeks, it is expected.”
“Where there are multiple people doing the same job, like reporters, subs or newsdesk, a matrix is being used to decide who should be asked to leave. That matrix ranks the candidates on their skills, performance, initiative, attendance, ability to work with others and their approach to change.
“No-one will be informed until that has been fully considered. The person or people chosen will be informed personally.”
The email claims that staff will then have around ten days to take some advice if necessary, consider their position and make any case to the editor for other matters to be considered.
It continued: “It is envisaged that the procedure for dealing with this will take around six weeks. Voluntary redundancies are still being accepted. The scheme runs until the end of December.
“Those who enquired about their payouts will still be able to get the payment they were told they would get.”
Of the redundancies 26 at have volunteered at the Wolverhampton-based Express and Star, where 60 are needed, and 15 at the Telford-based Shropshire Star, which has earmarked 30 posts for the chop.
Chris Morley NUJ Northern & Midlands Organiser said: “This is a very anxious time for our members who have been faced with the spectre of forced job losses for some time.
“It is still unclear where management are aiming their axe but getting rid of hard working dedicated staff will damage the overall quality of the journalism. These newspapers have high circulation mainly on the back of much original journalism that is rooted in the community. Reducing the numbers of journalists will surely weaken this.
“It has been an obvious trend in recent years that those newspapers that have cut deepest have paid for it in faster declining circulations. The situation is too serious for newspapers to risk this if they want a long-term future.
MNA managing director Alan Harris was not available for comment when HTFP contacted the company. In April the company said the move was necessary in the face of continued difficult trading conditions.
The job cuts will also see the Shropshire Star reduced from seven editions to five – with the early midday paper scrapped and the Powys and South Shropshire editions being merged.