As reported earlier today, JP is in “late stage” talks with i owner ESI Media over a £24m bid to buy the title, which sells 275,000 copies each day.
But the union says its regional reps have expressed “astonishment” at the proposed deal in the light of current plans by JP to axe up to 100 jobs across its 200-plus regional titles.
It is also concerned that the deal will mean the closure of the Independent and Independent on Sunday print editions, with the 30-year-old titles going online-only.
Johnston Press and i owner ESI Media confirmed the talks in separate statements issued this morning.
According to the JP statement, the deal would make it the fourth largest newspaper publisher in the UK with a combined circulation of 600,000 copiues daily, as well as giving it increased reach into the national advertising market.
However the NUJ said in a press release that reps working on JP’s regional titles “were astonished that JP, which has announced job losses and title closures across the group, said it has £24m to pay for the deal.
“Many of the staff are suffering from increased workloads as vacancies have not been filled. Latest figures show that JP’s net debt stands at £184.6m,” the release said.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, added: “The announcement and ensuing speculation is creating a huge amount of uncertainty. Johnston Press and the Lebedevs are just treating staff as pawns in a game played behind closed doors.
“They should step up and give immediate guarantees on jobs, terms; explain what this deal means and what JP is actually buying. The closure of the Independent print titles would be a disaster not only for those working on the newspapers but the whole UK media landscape.
“The i’s content comes from Independent journalists and is successful as part of the whole because of its experienced journalists who have stuck with the titles through thick and thin. How can you separate that out?
“JP staff are currently facing major job cuts and freezes. There will be anger about how the company squares their failure to invest locally with this announcement. Their record doesn’t bode well for the future of the i.”