A regional publisher’s handling of a proposed office move has been branded a “car crash mess” by union chiefs.
HTFP reported on Monday that Newsquest is looking for an alternative to the current offices of Barrow-based daily The Mail as part of a plan which could see some staff relocated 33 miles away to the headquarters of the Westmorland Gazette, in Kendal.
Newsquest insists that it has “every intention” to retain an office in Barrow, but the National Union of Journalists has hit out at the way the plan has been communicated to Mail staff, saying it does not believe management has been “straightforward and open.”
The NUJ claims Jonathan Lee, Newsquest’s local managing director, told a meeting of The Mail’s staff liaison council that the plan would see reporters, newsdesk and sales reps being based from Kendal, while sub-editors and a handful of non-editorial roles would remain at the current Abbey Road office, pictured below.
Newsquest confirmed on Monday is it is currently seeking a “more cost-effective” alternative office in Barrow, and that some staff could relocate to Kendal or work remotely.
HTFP understands that some editorial staff, including reporters, will continue to be based in Barrow, but the company has so far declined to provide confirmation of this.
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands senior organiser, said: “The communication of the company’s intentions has been a car crash mess and is causing untold stress and concern. We do not believe management is being straightforward and open with staff and that job losses are potentially involved here.”
“The plan as it stands threatens jobs and therefore Newsquest must now properly consult with the NUJ as the recognised trade union as is its legal duty. We want to fully engage over these proposals but can only do so if we know the full extent of the plan for the Barrow operation.
“Newsquest must come clean and be honest about the future there. We need to be told when a new site in Barrow will be operating, when The Mail will be plugged in to Newsquest software and IT, and how many and which staff will be based there.
“Our fear is that it will merely be a satellite office to maintain a token presence in the town. I would be delighted to be proved wrong.”
Jonathan told staff in a previous announcement that the proposed changes would be introduced over several months, with those initially affected relocating to Kendal around 6 August.
The Mail’s NUJ Chapel said in a statement: “Newsquest seems set on destroying all hope of ever having a strong daily newspaper in South Cumbria again. Staff were dismayed prospect of having to uproot their lives in less than three weeks’ time, now they just want to know what Newsquest’s plans are.”
A Newsquest spokesman said: “Any suggestion by the NUJ that we are reducing support of The Mail is nonsense – in fact we are adding reporters so we can provide the best possible coverage to its readers.
“As we have already stated we are reviewing our buildings which are in some cases no longer fit for purpose and have every intention to have an office in Barrow. We have nothing else to add – this story has been blown out of all proportion.”