Fairfax Media staff will walk off the job after the company announced plans to axe 70 editorial and jobs and outsource work as it continues to cut costs
A total of 25 editorial production jobs, 30 photographic positions and 15 jobs in the Life Media division are on the chopping block at the company’s newsrooms in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Staff at the The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review voted to strike for 24 hours at a stopwork meeting on Wednesday.
“We felt we had absolutely no choice but to support those colleagues with the devastating news they received this morning,” Fairfax staff representative Stuart Washington told AAP.
In an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon, Fairfax managing director of Australian Publishing Media Allen Williams warned the strike action was illegal and anyone who participated could be fired or face disciplinary action.
Employees are worried that Fairfax’s national pool of photographers will shrink to just 10 permanent staff while the sub-editing pool in Sydney and Melbourne could drop to a similar level.
Fairfax announced 1900 job cuts over three years in June, 2012 due to weak advertising revenues and structural challenges.
The company now plans to use more contributors to its Life Media sections in Sydney and Melbourne and to make greater use of Getty images for its news, life and business photographs.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) federal secretary Christopher Warren said the latest round of redundancies at Fairfax’s metro daily newspapers represented an assault on quality journalism.
“Fairfax seems incapable of deciding on new production arrangements and sticking with them,” he said.
“At what point does Fairfax stop being a news organisation and merely become a commissioning agency that outsources everything it does?”
Mr Williams told staff in another email that most photographic assignments would be done by Getty photographers.
“The changes we are proposing are similar to the more progressive and efficient models being used by other media organisations around the world,” Mr Williams said.
A Fairfax photographer, who did not wish to be named, said a meeting between management and photographic staff was “heated” due to a lack of consultation before the decision.
“The quality of photography will go down, that’s for sure,” the photographer said.
Meanwhile, a Fairfax sub-editor who also wished to remain anonymous, said there would only be 10 sub editors left in Sydney and Melbourne combined.
The MEAA said it hopes to hold talks with the company.
Fairfax described the strike as “unlawful”.
“The company is disappointed that some journalists have chosen to take this unlawful action,” it said in a statement.
“The company had commenced a meaningful consultation process about the proposed changes and has planned further briefings with affected employees and their representatives.”
Fairfax’s ongoing job shedding
June, 2012: Fairfax announces 1,900 jobs to be cut over three years, including 300 editorial jobs and hundreds of printing jobs
Feb, 2013: Fairfax says 854 jobs have been cut
October, 2013: Fairfax cuts 45 business editorial jobs
May, 2014: Fairfax announces 70 editorial jobs to go in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney