MEN staff blame Guardian for morning edition shift changes

Horrocks claims casual staff will be taken on to ease the MEN’s change

Journalists at the Manchester Evening News have revolted over plans to make them work more evenings in order to produce an early-morning edition of the paper. They believe the change has been caused by The Guardian and Observer’s proposed switch to a scaled-down Berliner format in 2006.

More than half the paper’s 100-plus journalists have started grievance procedures and the paper’s NUJ chapel has written in protest to the Scott Trust, which owns the Manchester daily as well as The Guardian and The Observer.

Two out of the four printing presses that produce The Guardian and the Manchester Evening News in Trafford Park, Greater Manchester, are to be removed so that new Berliner-size presses can be installed for The Guardian.

MEN editor Paul Horrocks said producing a new early morning edition will ensure the paper will not lose sales as a result of possible production delays due to the re-pressing.

Some 30,000 early edition copies will be printed overnight at a new location, which has yet to be finalised.

The final copy deadline for it will be 11pm and it is expected to arrive in newsagents at the same time as the national morning papers.

In a letter sent to the Scott Trust, the NUJ chapel of the MEN said the change “will mean radical and fundamental changes to the shift patterns of many of our journalists, particularly production staff”.

It added: “Many have built their lives around daytime working and to be told to work evenings, nights and Sundays will be difficult and in some cases, impossible.

“We were repeatedly told that although there was a multi-million pound budget for the changes to the Guardian/Observer, there was none for the required changes at the MEN.

“Many staff at the MEN have left morning newspapers to work for an evening paper precisely because they are no longer able to work such shifts.

“We would also make the point that over the past 15 years, staff here have shown extraordinary flexibility and enthusiasm, while seeing terms and conditions eroded relentlessly. We have only just emerged from a sevenyear pay freeze.”

Horrocks assured Press Gazette that no journalists would be required to work more than their current 35-hour week and that casual staff would be taken on to help ease the change.

He said: “We are not going to be producing a morning paper here. This is an early edition of the Manchester Evening News to make sure we’ve got a product should we suffer late production due to the work being done at the printing centre.

“The flexibility we are seeking is already contained in every journalist’s contract. This change is crucial to the business and crucial to the Manchester Evening News, and that’s why we are doing it.”

The latest MEN six-month circulation figure was 148,094 (Mon-Fri), down 6.4 per cent year-on-year.

Dominic Ponsford

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