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Publisher’s handling of potential office move branded ‘car crash mess’

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.

Mail office

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.”


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  • July 19, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    So Newsquest are adding reporters to their Barrow operation, and have every intention of having an office in Barrow. Very sensible, I would think, given that Barrow is by far the largest town in South Cumbria, and must be by far the largest source of worthwhile stories.

    Which begs the question why are reporters from Barrow being re-located to Kendal in three weeks? Barrow is hardly Canary Wharf, so the acquisition of suitable commercial premises which could accommodate them and the newly appointed hordes and a suitable price should not be an onerous task.

    Getting rid of the current Abbey Road premises – now that’s a different matter, but I am sure HSBC would not take much persuading, post Brexit, to shift its corporate base to South Cumbria.

    After all, by then, the area will be in the full sway of thriving new Newsquest newspaper bursting at the seams with keen newly appointed journos.

    Could the Mail’s future be any brighter?

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  • July 20, 2018 at 12:10 am

    This will come as no surprise to any Newsquest employee, as the group has shut offices across the country to save costs and generate cash. Papers are frequently produced many miles from the areas they serve. That is the economic reality of Newsquest’s business model. The paper may have an office presence in the town for a limited period but this will be a small office with a receptionist, a couple of ad staff and a desk for reporters. It will subsequently close. With regard to the recruitment of staff, Newsquest’s swathe of redundances in Cumbria will allow it to recruit some trainees on low wages, and use these appointments as a PR exercise to say we are investing in journalism. It will be interesting to compare the amount of money spent on editorial staff wages now, with that spent in two years time. I can guarantee it will be lower. Newsquest runs an extremely tight budgetary ship, as is its right in times of declining revenues, but one simply wishes it would be direct and forthright about making cuts, rather than using the sort of management speak which fools no-one, and makes it look even more foolish than its circulation figures and digital revenue figures which still do not include any proportion of the editorial team costs which drive people to its sites.

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