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Journalist roles under threat as publisher unveils redundancy plan

LAST 02CLIFFORD 3More than 10 editorial roles are under threat after an independent publisher announced plans to make dozens of staff redundant due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Midland News Association has confirmed it is looking at potential redundancies due to the impact of the pandemic on the business.

In a statement, the company said the outbreak had “severely affected advertising revenue and forecasts suggest the difficult trading conditions will continue throughout 2020″.

The MNA, which owns Wolverhampton daily the Express & Star and the Shropshire Star, says it is consulting with staff as it reviews its portfolio of free publications.

HTFP understands up to 90 jobs across the business are under threat – 45 in advertising, 15 in production and operations, 14 in editorial, seven in transport, six in circulation and three in finance.

In March, the company announced the suspension of all of its free titles due to the COVID-19 outbreak – including “the UKs biggest free weekly newspaper” Chronicle Week, the Shrewsbury Chronicle and Telford Journal.

The MNA also asked all employees to consider being placed on the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.

MNA print managing director Graeme Clifford, pictured, said: “The review of our portfolio could, regrettably, lead to redundancies as we look to secure a sustainable future for the company in these unprecedented circumstances.

“Our priority is to support members of staff whose roles are potentially affected by the changes and, while we are in consultation, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.

“In the meantime, we will continue to focus on our core titles, including the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, to ensure that we continue to serve our loyal readers and advertisers both in print and online.”

Chris Morley, National Union of Journalists northern and midlands senior organiser, said: “It is deeply troubling that Midland News Association is looking to shed almost a quarter of its entire staff, including a significant number of its already extremely hard-pressed editorial department.

“It is the least worst option that the company is seeking to achieve such big reductions by voluntary means. But the magnitude of the cuts is such that this needs to be done over a longer time frame and with greater consultation to arrive at the best possible outcome for the business to survive after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

“As the government has extended the job retention scheme at current rates to the end of July, this gives the company the latitude to do this.

“Morally this should be done because of the huge payments that the public purse has already made in supporting jobs at MNA and those leaving face one of the hardest job markets for decades.”

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