The Times has become the latest national newspaper to announce cuts to its sub-editing operation, with the introduction of shorter shifts and a 20 per cent reduction in the rate paid to casuals.
The News International daily, which is understood to rely on about 15 casual sub-editors to produce its news pages, has warned the affected journalists that ‘big savings’need to made in the coming months.
Under the proposed changes, outlined to casuals yesterday in an email from Times night sub-editor Liz Gerard, the length of casual shifts will be cut from seven-and-three-quarter hours to six – with a pay cut from £155 to £120.75 a day.
‘It won’t have escaped your notice that we are in straitened times,’Gerard said in the email memo, seen by PressGazette.co.uk.
‘In the past two weeks, rival newspapers have cut something like 150 production jobs. While we are not suffering quite as badly as others, the chill has not escaped us.”
Gerard said the Times had chosen to reduce the length of shifts – and the amount paid – as an alternative to lay-offs.
She added: ‘Obviously, protecting people’s livelihoods has been our main priority. We do, however, need to cut back substantially on the amount of money we spend on casual subs.”
From the new year, the current 2pm start time for casual shifts will be abolished.
Instead, the paper will introduce a new six-hour subbing shift from Sundays to Thursdays starting at 5pm. A similar shift will operate on Friday nights, producing the Saturday edition of the paper.
One casual will be invited to do a slightly longer shift each day, starting at 3pm.
Press Gazette understands that casual sub-editors on the paper are currently paid about £155 for a seven-and-three-quarter hour shift. The new £120.75 rate represents a 22 per cent pay cut.
‘I appreciate that some people will not feel it worth travelling for a six-hour shift, but equally hope that others may find this convenient,’Gerard added.
‘This is not a threat, but a statement of what should be obvious: if everyone tries to cling to their existing hours, the overall number of shifts will have to be reduced and more people will end up with none at all.
‘I hope, therefore, that you will understand that this arrangement is being introduced to try to protect as many people as possible.”
A Times spokeswoman was unavailable for comment this morning.
Sub-editors and production staff have been among the worst-affected by the latest round of cost cuts gripping the national and regional press.
Express Newspapers is looking to axe up to 80 sub-editing jobs across the Daily and Sunday Express by the end of this year, with the introduction of a new production system, called Woodwing, that allows reporters to input text directly on to a page.
The National Union of Journalists has expressed concern about the new system, which representatives at the paper said did not reduce the workload needed to produce the papers.
Telegraph Media Group has stopped using casual production workers, replacing them with 40 new permanent full-time jobs focusing on new media skills.