A regional publisher has been warned that its ‘cynical’ axing of nine photographic jobs in the West of England will impact on readership.
As previously reported on HTFP, Local World has introduced a “freelance model” to provide photographic cover for all titles in Gloucestershire, Somerset and Avon.
According to the National Union of Journalists, six photographers have left full time employment on the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen, two on the Western Daily Press and one on the Bath Chronicle.
The publisher has however retained four picture desk roles – a regional picture editor based in Bristol, a deputy regional picture editor for Cheltenham and Gloucester, a Somerset picture editor and a Gloucestershire picture desk-cum-roving photographic role.
The NUJ claims the deal on the table involved staff volunteering to leave their full-time positions in return for photographers being retained by Local World on freelance day shifts – with no redundancy pay.
But it has reacted strongly to a caveat in the agreement which has seen a majority of the photographers taking a redundancy pay-out on the understanding that they would get no freelance work with the company for the next 12 months.
NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “We oppose this cynical exercise in cost cutting, which loads all the costs and overheads onto poorly paid freelances and leaves them without employment rights.”
The union says the papers are planning to use freelances on a low day rate that includes all their expenses, including mileage. Photographers who cover large geographical areas will be particularly hard hit, it says.
“Local World needs photographic cover every day, and therefore should be employing staff to do this work,” added the union organiser.
“The lack of full-time staff is bound to have an impact on the photographic coverage, the service to readers and the community
To provide help for the job-hit staff photographers, the NUJ has set up a training course for staff photographers going freelance and is urging all affected individuals to join the union and sign up for the course.
Sarah Pullen, managing director of Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset Local World, said: “We are committed to featuring quality photography in all of our products.
“The decision to move to this freelance model provides us with flexibility that suits the needs of the business and won’t impact the service we provide.
“This model is used in other areas of Local World and by other publishers.”