Moves by regional publisher Newsquest to cut costs by asking staff to take a week’s unpaid leave are understood to have spread across most parts of the country.
HTFP reported last month that employees at newspapers across the Wales, Gloucestershire and Midlands South regions were asked to take a week’s unpaid leave as an alternative to job cuts, in response to ‘poor trading conditions’.
Now it has emerged Newsquest managers in other parts of the country have also asked their staff to take five days ‘furlough’ in a bid to avoid redundancies, according to the National Union of Journalists.
Staff at centres in Bradford, Darlington, Blackburn, Bolton, York and Oxford are among those who are understood to have been asked to do this.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, said he had heard reports about staff being asked to take unpaid leave in various parts of the country and he believed it now affected most Newsquest centres nationally.
Mr Morley said: “You can’t be forced into it contractually so they can’t oblige people to do it but the reports that I have got are that there are some strong-arm tactics being employed by managers calling in people to say why they think it is necessary.
“I think it smacks of desperation. We know that the individual operating centres within Newsquest are almost all profitable but there’s obviously huge demands from the US parent company Gannett to keep the profits high.
“That is placing impossible strains on local businesses and the company is looking for our members to subsidise the shareholders in America.
“The company had its pay freeze broken as a result of the stance our chapels took but they are effectively asking for it back with a week’s furlough.”
He added most centres which had been offered the 2pc pay rise by the company had accepted it, although not all had received the offer yet because of when their pay review anniversaries fell.
Newsquest chief executive Paul Davidson was not available for comment at the time of publication.