Mirror, Express and Star publisher Reach will furlough a fifth of its staff to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on its business, it has announced.
Furloughed staff will be paid 90 per cent of their basic salary, a proportion of which is covered by the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
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Reach employs roughly 4,700 staff, meaning about 940 have been furloughed, according to the National Union of Journalists.
Press Gazette understands the vast majority of those being furloughed will be in non-editorial roles, but some editorial roles are affected.
Those staff not put on furlough face a ten per cent salary cut, never falling below the living wage, while the board and senior editorial and management staff will have their pay cut by 20 per cent.
This includes chief executive Jim Mullen, who told staff of the new measures this morning.
Bonus schemes for 2020 will also be suspended at the UK’s largest news publisher.
Mullen told staff in an email: “We are now starting to see the inevitable knock-on effects of this crisis on all areas of our business.
“This has meant we’ve had to make some tough decisions to protect the business for the worst, while we continue to hope this crisis ends as soon as possible.”
He added that the measures would be regularly reviewed as the duration and impact of the crisis becomes clearer, but said “with the current uncertainty we have to do the responsible thing”.
‘Yet another blow to journalists’
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is yet another blow to journalists as they struggle to cover the biggest story in generations and it will hit our members hard as they do this while coping with working from home and looking after their loved ones.
“We are in discussions with the company about the measures they have announced to staff today and will engage fully with them about these provisions and how management seeks to apply them.”
‘Key’ national and regional titles to continue
In a business update, also released today, Reach’s board said it had decided not to pay out a final dividend to shareholders for 2019, deeming it “inappropriate” at this time.
The board is instead asking all stakeholder groups to contribute “to ensuring the company is in as strong a position as it can be”.
It is also looking to defer current contributions to group pension funds.
The board said it “believes these measures represent the most appropriate and responsible course of action” given the “unprecedented crisis” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reach owns more than 150 national and regional newsbrands, including a network of 70 news websites many of which fall under its “Live” branding.
It also owns a number of regional dailies, such as the Manchester Evening news, Liverpool Echo and Birmingham Mail.
The board said all key national and regional publications will continue to operate.
Reach made pre-tax profits of £150.6m in 2019, up six per cent year-on-year, on revenues of £702.5m for the year. The majority of its income (84 per cent) still comes from print.
Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson