Telegraph Media Group has breached employment law in axing the jobs of four senior journalists in the past month, according to the National Union of Journalists.
According to sources on the paper, Daily Telegraph social affairs reporter Sarah Womack and religious affairs correspondent Jonathan Petre were both last week told to leave the office immediately after meeting with Telegraph executives.
The couple, who have a young child together, have more than 30 years’ experience on the paper between them.
Press Gazette understands they were told they are to receive higher pay-offs than the statutory requirement, but colleagues are reportedly angry over the way they were treated.
Daily Telegraph arts correspondent Nigel Reynolds, who has spent more than 15 years at the paper, was also told he was no longer needed.
It is understood that science correspondent Nic Fleming is also leaving the company. All four are understood to be in talks over the terms of their departures.
The union argues that the four were not told in writing why they were being made redundant, and did not have a union official in meetings with them.
Telegraph NUJ father of chapel John Carey said: ‘We believe these individuals have been treated appallingly. All four have been dismissed in a way that directly contravenes their statutory minimum rights under current employment laws.
‘It also demonstrates a shocking lack of recognition or respect for the contribution they have made to the Telegraph over many years.”
NUJ national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said the union would consider whether to take action on the departed journalists’ behalf.
He said: ‘It’s appalling and we will be taking further steps. There are statutory processes that they can’t ignore.”
Deputy sports editor Dan Evans left the paper earlier this month and sports columnists Robert Philip and Mark Nicholas, formerly the face of Channel 4’s cricket coverage, are the latest to leave.
According to union sources, more than 150 editorial staff have left both papers since their move from Canary Wharf to state-of-the-art offices in London’s Victoria in 2006.
TMG management this week cancelled a meeting with union officials to discuss new 24/7 working arrangements.
The NUJ had accused the paper’s executives of trying to impose new-media working conditions without proper consultation, but called off a proposed strike ballot last week after both sides agreed to discuss revised proposals.
But those talks have been put back by four to six weeks, leaving the union considering its options.
A Telegraph spokesperson said: ‘We have held, and continue to hold regular meetings with the NUJ and consult with them about all appropriate aspects of our business.”
Telegraph Media Group has appointed another news executive to oversee content across the daily and Sunday editions of the Telegraph and Telegraph.co.uk. Adrian Michaels is now TMG’s head of foreign operations and will manage the world news output for all three platforms.
Michaels joins from the Financial Times where he spent 15 years, the last four as the paper’s Milan correspondent. He now becomes the fourth senior journalist to take control of coverage across all three Telegraph platforms.
In November last year, Damian Reece was appointed head of business across City and financial desks in both papers and the website. He said there would no longer be distinctions between daily and Sunday journalists – with the exception of Sunday Telegraph City editor Mark Kleinman.
TMG’s sport departments received the same treatment in January when Mark Skipworth, formerly managing editor for news at the Sunday Times, was appointed head of sport.
Most recently, this month Iain Martin was given the new role of head of comment and community, and is responsible for the Telegraph’s online blogs and the newspapers’ traditional, print comment sections.