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March 28, 2013updated 02 Apr 2013 4:22pm

Al Jazeera denies claims 20 UK journalism jobs are at risk and promises expansion ahead of Shard move

By Alan Selby

Al Jazeera has denied claims jobs are at risk in its UK newsroom following reports that around 20 journalists are to be sent to Qatar for three months with no guarantee their roles will still exist when they get back.

The Evening Standard reported yesterday that journalists in the Qatari broadcaster's UK newsroom in Knightsbridge had been abruptly told 15-20 of them were to be sent to Doha.
The article said a "brusque" email from director of news Salah Negm had given journalists ten days' notice of the move, and gave no promises they would have jobs on their return to London.
It also quoted an NUJ source who said staff were "utterly appalled" at the news.
But Al Jazeera said there was "no truth" in the suggestion jobs are under threat, and insisted it is planning a large expansion of its UK arm before it moves into new offices in the Shard in a year's time.
A spokesman said: "The last thing we're looking to do is get rid of people."
Al Jazeera said the staff involved would be taking part in temporary placements, and that this was commonplace.
"There are always movement between staff, but there are no plans to send people there and then they go back to the UK and they have no jobs… we always have people coming from London to Doha." 
The company's spokesman said Al Jazeera's main Doha newsroom would be increasing output over the next few weeks, and staff were needed to fill the temporary voids that had been created by the combination of this and the current Al Jazeera USA expansion.
"Because we're setting up Al Jazeera USA some of our people in Doha have gone to the USA, and some from London are coming to work in their place temporarily."
He also said speculation that the plans were a precursor to a wholesale move to Qatar were wide of the mark, particularly as the reported 20 positions represented a small fraction of the 150 people the company currently employs in the UK.
The spokesman reiterated that the practice of staff undertaking placements in Doha was nothing new, and had existed for a long time in the company.
"We've always had that. This is our main newsroom. Sometimes we may need people to come and work here for a while."
They added that reports on the length of the placements were exaggerated, as only some of the staff would be there for the three months quoted in the Evening Standard's piece, and stressed that journalists would regularly be able to come home to see their families.
"Every 30 days they get to come back to the UK for 10 days, which aims to help our staff to ensure they come back home and spend time with their families."
The spokesman added: "People regularly come here for work, but it's not like the brusque way that this article stipulated."
On Twitter Mark Porter, TV director for Al Jazeera English, said he was unaware of any plans for a large-scale move. 
One source told Press Gazette: "While many people from Aj offices go to Doha, it is just for a couple of weeks here and there. This is indefinite deployment, for 30 days at a time. This has never been done before."
And they sent us a copy of the memo which they said was sent to staff:

Staff going to Doha from London – Full Time Employees

 ·         3 month minimum requirement to support launch of AJUS. Staggered from 7th April when daily bulletins and inserts cease from London

·         Requirement for Presenters, Programme Editors, Assistant Programme Editors, Interview Producers, Senior Producers, Output Producers to Doha

·         A skeleton team of staff will remain in London for Disaster Recovery

·         Newsgathering remains as is for now although there will be a requirement for London input staff to travel to Doha

Arrangements whilst in Doha

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·         Hotel accommodation including meals (excluding room service) + laundry

·         QR 200 allowance per day

·         10 day break every 30 days to return to the UK. Additional leave flights to and from Doha – London will be paid for by the Company. Staff will be required to take leave during the 10 day break, however, you will have the opportunity to accrue Days Off In Lieu whilst in Doha which can be used instead of annual leave for these trips.  

·         Staff will work on a 4 in 1 out Shift Pattern –

Day 1                     travel to Doha

Days 2 – 5             4 x on shift

Days 6 – 9             4 x days off

Days 10 – 13        4 x on shift

Days 14 -17          4 x days off

Days 18 – 21        4 x on shift

Days 22-25           4 x days off

Days 26 – 29        4 x on shift

Days 30                 travel home

Days 31-40           10 x days off

Starts again…..


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