Express & Star to make compulsory redundancies

The publisher of the UK’s biggest regional newspaper, Wolverhampton’s Express & Star, looks set to make compulsory redundancies.

An email sent from the Express & Star’s staff council to all employees yesterday revealed that out of 90 voluntary redundancies sought by owner Midland News Association (MNA) only 41 applicants had come forward. They included 26 at the Express & Star – where 60 were needed – and 15 at the Shropshire Star, where 30 were needed.

Five editorial staff at the Express & Star have been accepted and most have already gone, and another six have been accepted from Shropshire editorial – the email states.

The company’s management is now pushing ahead with compulsory redundancies, according to the email, which are being worked out by department heads including editor Adrian Faber.

The email said: ‘He [Faber] will have to decide which posts can be lost. Those chosen will be informed within the next two weeks, it is expected.

‘Where there are multiple people doing the same job, like reporters, subs or newsdesk, a matrix is being used to decide who should be asked to leave.

‘That matrix ranks the candidates on their skills, performance, initiative, attendance, ability to work with others and their approach to change.

‘No-one will be informed until that has been fully considered. The person or people chosen will be informed personally.”

It continued: ‘They will then have around 10 days, a period covering two weekends at least, to let that sink in, take some advice if necessary, consider their position and make any case to the editor for other matters to be considered.

“It is envisaged that the procedure for dealing with this will take around six weeks.”

Voluntary redundancies are still being accepted by the company and the scheme runs until December.

In April it emerged MNA was cutting around 90 ot its 900 staff. In 2008 around 135 employees left the company after a major round of staff cuts.

MNA managing director Alan Harris did not reply to a request for comment this morning, but at the time the redundancies were announced he cited ‘difficult trading conditions”, adding that there ‘seems to be no sign of improvement”.

According to NUJ north of England organiser Chris Morley it is still unclear how many of the 90 posts being cut will be journalists.

He said: “I think this is an extremely worrying time for our members at both Wolverhampton and Shropshire. The papers and the websites that are produced there sell in high numbers as a consequence of the quality of journalism that our members produce there. These job losses, whether voluntary or compulsory, would lead us to worry about the future of the papers.”

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