JPI Media puts 350 staff on furlough to 'control costs' during pandemic

JPI Media, owner of the Yorkshire Post and Scotsman titles, is putting 350 employees on furlough and cutting the salaries of those who continue working by up to 15 per cent.

Employees of the regional publisher were told this morning of plans to safeguard jobs by reducing staff costs as the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues.

JPI chief executive David King said 250 sales staff and some 100 other employees will be put on furlough “in light of the significant reduction in advertising volumes”.

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It is understood that about 60 of those affected will be journalists, including in sport and photography.

He said this would last for at least three weeks “but most likely for two months and possibly longer”.

Employees who remain at work will receive a temporary pay reduction for three months from April to June.

The publisher is using a tiered system which will mean anyone earning under £18,000 will not receive a reduction in pay.

Everyone else will have no reduction of their first £18,000 earned, a ten per cent reduction on earnings between £18,000 and £40,000, and 15 per cent after that.

King and the board of directors will all take a 20 per cent cut on their entire salary.

King also told staff any planned pay rises would be deferred for at least three months.

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.”

The publisher last week suspended 12 local print titles, including in Bedfordshire, Sussex and the North East, to cope with the pandemic.

The Government’s job retention scheme is allowing employers to claim for 80 per cent of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs up to £2,500 a month.

King said that JPI staff on furlough who earn up to £18,000 will not have to take a pay cut, while those above £18,000 will receive a reduction of ten per cent up to £25,000, rising to 15 per cent for those earning above £25,000.

No staff who earn above £18,000 will be forced onto a salary below that figure because they have been put on furlough, King said.

None of the changes impact Facebook community reporters or local democracy reporters based at JPI’s titles as they are not paid by the publisher.

JPI Media owns more than 150 regional newspaper titles across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It recently sold its only national title, the i, to the Daily Mail and General Trust.

Rival regional publisher Newsquest has already put a “significant number” of staff on furlough, including about ten per cent of its 650 editorial staff.

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