A regional publisher is to place around 60 journalists and 350 staff in total on paid leave – while those remaining in work could also be set to take temporary pay cuts.
JPIMedia has announced part of its 700-strong editorial workforce will be put on the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme as part of new measures to tackle the economic impact of the pandemic, along with 250 sales staff and around 40 in other posts.
In a bid to protect its lowest earners, the company says those earning £18,000 or less will continue to receive 100pc of their wage – regardless of whether they are furloughed or not.
But those earning above that who remain in work will take incremental pay cuts depending on how much they earn.
JPIMedia says there will be a 10pc reduction on earnings between £18,000 and £40,000, and a 15pc reduction on all earnings above £40,000 for those who are working.
Employees placed on furlough leave earning between £18,000 and £25,000 will take a 10pc wage cut on earnings above the minimum amount, rising to 15pc for those earning above £25,000.
The company’s board of directors will take a 20pc cut on the whole of their salary.
It is understood that most of the journalists to be furloughed are working in community sport or the company’s design hub. Journalists employed under the Facebook community reporting scheme or the BBC local democracy reporting scheme will not be affected.
The measures, to be implemented from April to June, were announced to staff this morning by chief executive David King, pictured.
He said: “As you are probably aware, the local and regional newspaper industry has seen a sudden and steep reduction in advertising order volumes which is having a very significant impact on our revenues.
“In addition, newspaper circulation revenues have been adversely hit by store closures and lockdown restrictions. Our print contract customers are similarly affected by reduced newspaper sales volumes.
“To support the business and safeguard jobs during this uncertain period we need to make difficult decisions to control costs and preserve cash.
“Whilst we are addressing all costs in the business and looking for savings wherever we can, our staff costs are the biggest single component of our cost base and regrettably we do need to make savings in this area.”
David added those furloughed would go on leave for at least three weeks, but “most likely for two months and possibly longer”, while they could be recalled at two days’ notice at any time after the initial three weeks.
Noting the decision was “not a reflection” on the performance of those affected, he said: “I appreciate that these are unsettling times, and that nobody wants to take a pay reduction, even for a short period. I recognise that even a small pay reduction will affect household budgets and so we have made every effort to ensure that we limit the impact for those on lower salaries.
“We have also made a distinction between those we are asking to continue working, with slightly larger pay reductions for those we are asking to temporarily stop working.
“I must emphasise that these are temporary measures. They are only being imposed after a great deal of thought and consideration for what is in the best long-term interests of the business and all of us who work in it.
“I very much hope that, if we all follow the government’s advice, we will all be able to return to work in a more normal environment, sooner rather than later, and that we are then able to lift these temporary measures.”
The announcement comes a week after JPIMedia revealed it was temporarily suspending publication of eight free titles across the country,
Other regional publishers to announce they are furloughing staff include Newsquest and the Midland News Association, while the Press Association confirmed yesterday that 44 sports journalists would be placed on the government scheme.