Axegrinder thought he was as likely to read the words 'Newsquest wins Investors in People Award' as to see the headline 'Vlad the Impaler Given Posthumous Nobel Prize'.
Given the many redundancies, ongoing pay freezes and ongoing purges of sub-editors and photographers across the group, it does not seem at first glance to be a frontrunner for the "coveted business accolade" which is the Investors in People Bronze Award.
So no wonder there are raised eyebrows at the National Union of Journalists that Newsquest's Newport subbing hub has picked up this award.
The hub has been used to outsource sub-editing of more than 250 Newsquest local newspapers around the country. In York, and elsewhere around the country, sub-editors have been told they can move to Wales, or take redundancy.
Newsquest NUJ group co-ordinator Chris Morley said: “The awarding of Investors in People Bronze Standard to Newsquest was greeted with uniform disbelief by our members.
“While the gong was given specifically for the Newport hub – whose staff are in an impossible position, given the huge volume of titles they handle – it is clear that the award body had no interest in seeing the wider context involved.
“In July, the NUJ was forced to categorise Newsquest’s apparent demonic devotion to redundancies as a ‘summer of sackings’ and chapels in London called 12-day strike action over savage cuts. The company’s record on employment is shocking since it neither invests in proper staffing levels nor attempts to pay its journalists decently. Most people have suffered from having virtually no pay rises for seven years.
“Our members cringe when they see the company seeking to gain ill-deserved kudos from a public body. We feel either the Investors in People organisation has absolutely the wrong criteria when judging companies such as Newsquest, or they are wilfully blind and just see any business willing to contact it as a worthy recipient of its blandishments.
“The Newport staff are caught in the crossfire. Jobs are being ruthlessly sacrificed all around the country and they being expected to pick up the pieces. But they have little time and, in many cases, inadequate training to reach the level of excellence they want to achieve and the end product shows this. We do not think Newsquest deserves this promotion and publicity and shall be examining at whether the IIP has legitimately awarded it.”
Around 140 people are employed at Newsquest’s group editorial services unit in Newport.
According to the NUJ, jobs in Newport are typically lower paid and lower skilled than the ones they have replaced elsewhere in the UK.
A survey of more than 700 journalists, carried out over summer by the Press Gazette, found that journalists working for Newsquest were the least happy of those working for major regional newspaper publishers.
Here is a round-up of the Newsquest redundancies reported since June:
- Six photographic jobs at Wiltshire (June)
- seven production jobs Reading and Slough (July)
- seven jobs in Oxford (July)
- two jobs at Bournemouth (July)
- six in south London (July)
- six editorial jobs, including four content managers and a news editor in Wiltshire (September)
- six photographic jobs in Bradford, Darlington and York (September)
- three title editors and four (of five) photographers in Reading/Slough/Bracknell (September)
- all three remaining photographers at Brighton (September).