Reach journalists at the company’s Birmingham newsroom have complained about “unnecessary and potentially negligent” delays to sharing information about proposed job cuts.
The UK’s largest regional newspaper publisher announced on 7 July that 550 jobs were being cut. Press Gazette understands that at least 1,000 roles have been put at risk of redundancy.
Yesterday (Tuesday) journalists based in the Midlands wrote to local management complaining that Reach group editor Lloyd Embley and Midlands editor Marc Reeves had met local MPs and briefed them about job cuts before telling their own staff.
The Birmingham NUJ chapel said: “The lack of information has been hugely disconcerting, and frankly insulting.
“It is baffling to members as to why senior management made an announcement without preparing documents for employees on the future of their centre and information about how many roles you would be seeking to terminate in this process. Members have given their all to the company during the global pandemic to continue to deliver quality content in extremely difficult circumstances- both professionally and personally.
“The handling of this announcement has added unnecessary stress and anxiety at an already deeply troubling time, as members battle with the uncertainty over their futures and that of the newsroom that we are all passionate about.
“Some members report feeling overwhelmed, tearful, unable to concentrate, struggling to sleep, having difficulty staying motivated and questioning their own value, self worth and contribution.
“While this can be an effect of redundancy, the abject failure of the management to communicate effectively and honestly, promptly and effectively with staff from the start, and certainly since Friday, has exacerbated these impacts to unnecessary and potentially negligent levels.”
The letter added:”We are also aware that Lloyd Embley and Marc Reeves met with Birmingham MPs and understand at that meeting those MPs were reassured the impact on the Birmingham newsroom would be negligible, likely to be plus or minus one. This would be at odds with the situation as it is understood by employees and it is discomforting to think that reassurance is being given to local representatives but not to Reach’s own employees.”
NUJ members in Birmingham have voted to submit a vote of no confidence in senior management “in regards to the mishandling redundancy process”. This follows a national no-confidence vote over management’s handling of the cuts.
Today (Wednesday) Birmingham journalists were given more detail about the cutbacks and told that two reporters, two photographers, a video editor, and eight production roles – expected to be print sub-editors who are being merged between Birmingham and Wales – are likely to go.
Meanwhile 22 people will lose their jobs in Bristol and the South West: seven from the Bristol Post newsdesk and reporting team, six from Somerset Live, and nine in production. The Western Daily Press is also produced in the Bristol newsroom.
Paul Breeden, chairman of the Bristol branch of the NUJ, said this was “much worse” than members had feared, adding it will “decimate both titles’ ability to adequately provide quality news for Bristol and the wider region”.
He said the cuts were a “slap in the face for [Reach’s] newsgathering staff” who now face “weeks of worry before they know whether they will lose their jobs”.
“Any further cuts to Reach’s depleted team of newsgatherers will be a grave threat to the health of Bristol’s media and to local democracy.”
A Reach spokesperson said today: “We are very proud of our titles in Birmingham and Bristol, and know the vital role they play in a democratic society. Award-winning journalism and content will always be at the heart of our business.
“Reach continues to consult with colleagues and trade unions over the proposed changes which are subject to a minimum 45-day statutory consultation period.
“The pandemic has seen significant declines in local advertising, so these changes are required and are about us operating more efficiently to protect local journalism and our news brands for the long-term.”
The NUJ said last week that more than half of the editorial workforce at Reach’s Media Wales operation is at risk.
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said: “Any further cuts to the media in Wales will be damaging to Welsh democracy. The Welsh Government urges those groups to rethink their plans.”