Regional publisher Newsquest has said claims it is moving reporters on The Mail (formerly the North-West Evening Mail) 30 miles away have been “blown out of all proportion”.
The NUJ criticised the decision to move Mail staff from their office in Abbey Road, Barrow-in-Furness, to another office in Kendal, roughly an hour’s drive from their local patch.
Jonathan Lee, the managing director for Newsquest’s Cumbria titles, reportedly told a meeting of the staff liaison council that they planned to move reporters and sales reps to their Kendal offices or alternatively have them working from home.
Under the plans, sub-editors and some non-editorial roles would remain at the Abbey Road site.
The Mail NUJ Chapel said: “The biggest criticism of The Mail is that not enough local news is being covered. That will obviously be made worse if reporters are, in the main, based 45 minutes away from Barrow.
“Newsquest seems set on destroying all hope of ever having a strong daily newspaper in South Cumbria again.
“Staff were dismayed prospect of having to uproot their lives in less than three weeks’ time, now they just want to know what Newsquest’s plans are.”
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands senior organiser, said: “The communication of the company’s intentions has been a car crash mess and is causing untold stress and concern.
“We do not believe management is being straightforward and open with staff and that job losses are potentially involved here.
“The loss of reporting staff to be based an hour’s drive away in another town with an entirely different culture would be astonishing, even for Newsquest, and be severely damaging to The Mail’s hard-won reputation and credibility in a tight-knit community like Barrow.”
He added: “Newsquest must come clean and be honest about the future there.
“We need to be told when a new site in Barrow will be operating, when The Mail will be plugged in to Newsquest software and IT, and how many and which staff will be based there.
“Our fear is that it will merely be a satellite office to maintain a token presence in the town. I would be delighted to be proved wrong.”
Newsquest North managing director, David Coates, rubbished the reports on Twitter after local MP John Woodcock shared the news.
Coates said: “Any suggestion of The Mail leaving Barrow is complete cobblers. In fact we’re hiring more reporters there.”
A spokesperson for Newsquest said: “Any suggestion by the NUJ that we are reducing support of The Mail is nonsense – in fact we are adding reporters so we can provide the best possible coverage to its readers.
“As we have already stated we are reviewing our buildings which are in some cases no longer fit for purpose and have every intention to have an office in Barrow.
“We have nothing else to add – this story has been blown out of all proportion.”
The publisher has made a number of job cuts at ex-CN Group titles in an effort to run them more efficiently. These included cutting four out of five Carlisle-based photographer roles as part of over 100 job losses, according to the NUJ.