Journalists at The Independent are to press ahead with a ballot for industrial action despite warnings from management that cuts are needed to safeguard the future of the papers.
After the NUJ gave notice of the strike action last week, members were sent ballot papers following a chapel meeting yesterday. NUJ members at The Independent have also written to owner Evgeny Lebedev calling on him to consult fully with staff before going through with the latest round of editorial job cuts.
The union said it was “deeply worried” about the effect of the cuts on the quality of the output at the paper.
Earlier this month, The Independent announced that there would be 27 compulsory job losses across its daily and Sunday editions, as well as the i, with news reporters expected to bear the brunt. Around 20 new digital journalism jobs are being created.
The number of compulsory redundancies could be less than first feared but the total number of jobs lost is expected to remain the same.
At a meeting with staff last week, called to discuss the planned cuts, Independent managing director Andrew Mullins admitted that they were a means of “managing decline” at the papers.
Staff were also warned that without the proposed cutbacks the future of the The Independent print edition would be in doubt.
In the letter to Lebedev, NUJ members said:: “With already fewer than half the editorial staff of any other quality national newspaper in Britain, we are deeply worried that the extent of the job losses put before us – which threaten to tear the heart out of the writing staff – will be a tipping point.”
Before the latest redundancies, The Independent ihas around 190 editorial staff working on the daily, Sunday and i.
Laura Davison, NUJ assistant organiser, said: “Journalists at the Independent do not want to be part of a ‘managed decline’ at the newspaper. They are proud of the quality of their journalism in all its formats and are seeking to defend it. They are simply asking for management to stop rushing the cuts through and engage in a meaningful consultation process in which the real concerns of the editorial workforce are listened to and acted on.”
The strike ballot closes next Friday 2 August.
Independent group content director Chris Blackhurst has previously said he would be “extremely disappointed” if journalists voted to strike, adding that the proposed cuts were a necessary money-saving measure at the loss-making paper.
The editorial redundancies are expected to include a number of respected senior figures at the paper. Chief sports writer James Lawton and 20-year veteran John Walsh are among those understood to be leaving. The foreign desk is also likely to be hit hard by the cuts, with Africa correspondent Daniel Howden, Paris correspondent John Lichfield and Russian expert Mary Dejevsky all set to depart.