Nearly 30 jobs are at risk at Newsquest titles in the North West in a plan to move production of more newspapers to South Wales.
The company’s production hub in Newport has already been given responsibility for producing titles from its West Midlands and North-East divisions despite bitter union opposition.
The National Union of Journalists says 17 subbing roles and six page planning roles would be going at the existing production hub in Blackburn and a further six subbing posts at Warrington, Cheshire.
Staff at affected newspapers were summoned to a meeting yesterday afternoon to be told the news.
No-one from Newsquest North West has yet responded to requests for a comment on the plans.
Those titles will now be subbed 220 miles away with the NUJ claiming the “crucial link” with their local communities will be severed.
Blackburn father-of-chapel Chris Gee said: “It is our belief that the strength of a local press is founded on its connection to the communities it serves. Critical in this relationship is a clear understanding of the locality.
“Our papers should be produced in the heart of the communities they serve, not hundreds of miles away.
“Here in Blackburn, we have a dedicated and hardworking subbing team whose professionalism in producing the Lancashire Telegraph, Bolton News, Westmorland Gazette and associated titles, has never been called into question.
“What is the sense of dismissing this skills base, some of whom have decades of newspaper experience? This decision will cause hardship and unemployment for many sub editors because of a decision that is wholly unnecessary.
“The chapel believes moving these posts so far away will undoubtedly diminish the quality of the products we produce, and for what? The pursuit of short term, transient profits for Newsquest at the expense of the careers and livelihoods of hardworking, loyal staff.
“It is impossible for Newsquest management to underestimate how strongly our members feel and the action we are prepared to take to challenge the nonsensical path the company has chosen.”
Tony Howard and Vicki Stockman, joint father and mother of chapel of the group’s Cheshire/Merseyside titles, said: “Even though we have been expecting this news for some time, nothing prepares people for the announcement that their careers could be finished in order to save a highly profitable company even more money.
“We will do our utmost to preserve as many of the six jobs going as possible and will fight for the best possible redundancy terms for those forced to leave. We will also seek to ensure remaining staff, who will be greatly affected by these changes, are protected.
“A great many issues remain unresolved and we will attempt to address those through consultation. All those affected within our chapel are union members, which gives us great unity and strength.
“The fact the announcement was made on International Workers’ Day and the date for implementation falls on the anniversary of D-Day are ironies not lost on our hardworking, long serving, loyal staff.”
Earlier this year Newsquest’s decision to move production of North East titles to the Welsh subbing-hub with the loss of up to 25 jobs led to a 24-hour strike by journalists in York, Darlington and Bradford.
NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “The move to destroy local subbing by Newsquest in the North West, before even the full damage at sister operations in York, Darlington and Bradford has been completed, shows sheer desperation by the company to continue swinging the cost-cutting axe while rivals start to invest in editorial.
“I’m sure the workers at the Newport hub are doing their absolute level professional best to keep up quality but with the vast array of titles flying their way for subbing, it is clearly an impossible task. Our members at Blackburn and Warrington are angry now and we will do all we can to support them at this critical time.”
At the NUJ’s Delegate meeting last month in Eastbourne, Bob Smith, FoC of the Newsquest group chapel, said the hubs were becoming the equivalent of sweatshop call centres.
He said: “Staff are working shifts of 12 to 14 hours on a poorly-designed system and it’s all they can do just to get the stuff out. It is yet another nail in the coffin of local journalism.”