Staff photographers across the North of England are set to be made redundant in the latest round of Johnston Press cutbacks.
The regional publisher has told photographic staff at a series of titles in Lancashire and Yorkshire that there will be job cuts before Christmas, although it has yet to confirm how many will be affected.
It is understood six out of the nine photographers working at Johnston Press North West titles The Gazette, in Blackpool, Preston’s Lancashire Evening Post and the Wigan Evening Post will face redundancy.
And across the Pennines, all weekly staff photographers based at JP’s Wakefield and Dewsbury centres are set to lose their jobs, along with those working for Scarborough-based Yorkshire Regional Newspapers division.
The announcements follow JP’s decision last week to merge its three flagship Scottish titles – The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News – with the loss of up to 45 jobs, following its promise of “further efficiency savings” in an interim management statement.
The North West and Yorkshire are the latest of JP’s regional divisions to be affected by cutbacks in photographic staff, following similar reductions in Scotland, the Midlands and the company’s Southern division.
Following the latest announcement, three photographers will be retained in the North West alongside the present picture editor and deputy picture editor, who will continue to co-ordinate the operation from Preston.
One photographer will be kept based at each of the three centres and any remaining photographic work will be freelanced.
Staff were told of the move on Tuesday and will have to apply for the three posts, but have been informed there will be a budget for freelancers and opportunities to do freelance work.
A consultation period will run until 3 December.
A JP spokeswoman said: “We are currently looking at reorganising our photographic services in the North West and Yorkshire and discussions are now taking place with the teams involved in those regions.
“New ways of working – which have resulted in a reduction in photographic roles – have been successfully implemented in some of JP’s other regions and our teams in Yorkshire and the North West are now working with the editorial teams to establish whether similar approaches are to be adopted.
“I can’t confirm numbers as the discussions are still ongoing – but we are working hard to support staff who may be affected.”
A spokeswoman for the NUJ’s JP group chapel said: “Morale is at rock bottom in Johnston Press, yet further cuts have been announced.
“Our members are shocked by further photographic redundancies, a move which is likely to hit the quality of newspapers and websites we produce, lead to further declining readership and harm the long-term prospects of the company.
“Alarmingly, Johnston Press management believes that more ‘user generated content’ is the way forward.
“They ignore the fact that this requires more work from editorial teams in processing submitted material, which is often of a sub-standard quality and not suitable for publication.
“Serious questions also need to be answered over whether this is a genuine redundancy process, given that the company has a track record of re-engaging photographers on a freelance basis with lower pay and worse terms and conditions.”