In a video broadcast to all JP staff earlier this week, Ashley said the company needed to go further in its cost-cutting drive due to the “changing demands” of readers and advertisers, and confirmed there would be redundancies at “one or two” of JP’s regional publishing units.
JP has declined to confirm the numbers and locations affected, but the National Union of Journalists has claimed that up to 19 jobs will go at the publisher’s Yorkshire businesses.
According to the union, staff have been told the editorial budget would be reduced by eight per cent.
It says that between 15 and 19 jobs could go, equivalent to one per title, by the end of March.
The NUJ’s Johnston Press group chapel said: “Our members have been left shocked by today’s announcement. It’s difficult to see how further job losses, which leave newsrooms struggling to function, are the way forward.
“Staffing is already at crisis point, leading to excessive hours and workloads and rock-bottom morale, as evidenced in a recent stress survey by the NUJ. We are seeking meaningful negotiations with the company to explore ways of avoiding job losses.”
In the video, Ashley said: “Where we have had to make them, we do not make these decisions lightly, although, of course, that’s of no consolation to those who have been or will be affected personally by these changes.
“We will work as hard as we can to make sure those facing redundancy receive the best level of support we can give through the process.
“These tough decisions are an essential part of securing a viable future for the vast majority of our teams.”
Decisions on staff cuts will be taken at a local level, overseen by the company’s senior leadership team and managing director.
Ashley also used the speech to highlight the ‘Newsroom of the Future’ pilot trialled in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which has seen staff at its titles there combined into two teams – a ‘news team’ tasked with seeking out and developing stories, and a ‘communities content team’ which cultivates stories submitted by readers.
He added the strategy “would be a key part of how we adapt to this changing environment”, and there were no plans to close any paid-for print products.
Ashley said: “I am well aware we cannot simply reduce our staff numbers without a plan of how we are going to manage workloads.
“We are acutely aware we need to mitigate the impact on those who remain in the business.”
The latest announcements follow the company’s interim management statement last month, which stated the group would be implementing “further efficiency and restructuring initiatives”.
Since then, it has been announced that between 35 and 45 jobs are set to go at its flagship titles The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, while staff photographer roles have been axed across the north of England the Scottish Borders over recent weeks.
Ashley added: “The reality is that, whilst revenue decline is slowing, as a result of the hard work and measures taking place across our business, we still face the challenge of offsetting print revenue decline through digital and mobile growth and, while we are beginning to make great inroads here, the challenge remains.
“We are not quite at the tipping point.”