Thursday, April 17

Midland News Association Announces 76 job losses

NUJ members have reacted with shock at an announcement by Midland News Association, publisher of the Express and Star and Shropshire Star, that it plans to cut 76 jobs, 12 in editorial and that its daily titles will switch to overnight production.

A letter from Phil Inman, Claverley Group chief executive, said:

    "The Express & Star and Shropshire Newspapers have strong futures where they will remain the leading publishers in their markets but we must consider new ways of operating that better reflect the change in people's lives. This will necessitate significant investment to strengthen the digital operation… Although the exact number of job losses is still under discussion and numbers may change we consider that 76 of the workforce (overall including Express & Star, Shropshire Newspapers and MNA) could be potentially redundant."

He said the plans to move to overnight publication would require changes to working hours  and shift patterns for news editors, sub-editors and drivers and potential moves to "continental style shifts" for print production staff.

There will now be a 45-day consultation period on the company's proposals.

Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser:

    "There is great shock at the timing of this announcement, although our members had been fearful something like this was not far away This is a huge blow, not just in the numbers of people who may lose their jobs but also to quality journalism.

    "The two daily papers in Wolverhampton and Shropshire have been the lonely standard bearers for same-day regional newspaper news and sport and had been very successful in that over many years. But repeated deep cuts to editorial numbers have critically weakened what they have been able to offer readers by badly overstretching staff.

    "The NUJ calls on the company to open talks with unions to find a sustainable way forward. This must be done in a way staff are reassured that directors will not take the discredited path to a cycle of cuts to the core business and then more cuts that drives away still yet more readers and advertisers.

    "Any change from same-day publication will require major changes to the way staff work. If the proposals are to be implemented, to work they need to be with the agreement of staff - not by the company putting a gun to employees' heads."

The union is now in discussion with the chapeIs involved.

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