FAIRFAX editorial staff have returned to work this morning after striking in response to the company’s proposal to move 66 editorial production jobs from Australian regional publications to New Zealand.
More than 800 journalists at The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, Sunday Age, The Sun-Herald, Newcastle Herald, and Illawarra Mercury walked off the job for 36 hours from Wednesday night – with the Canberra Times joining yesterday – after a meeting with Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance officials.
Skeleton staffs and newswire copy provided the majority of content for today’s newspapers.
Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said staff members had been understandably unsettled by significant changes to the way the business had operated in the past.
However, he said: “Fairfax Media is on a journey of change. We are reshaping the way we work. We must continue to do so to thrive in the future.”
Crowds of 150 staff members in Melbourne and 40 in Sydney gathered yesterday outside Fairfax offices.
“We’re standing up for our colleagues,” deputy foreign editor and chair of the union committee at The SMH, Marcus Strom, told The Newspaper Works.
Mr Strom said he believed Fairfax’s outsourcing of sub-editing to PageMasters in 2011 had been detrimental to newspaper quality.
Linda Morris – a Fairfax journalist for more than 20 years – agreed.
“It is about quality journalism. I fear this is the first of 1000 cuts – more job losses, greater outsourcing and a diminution of the brand itself,” Ms Morris said.
“We’re all willing to adapt to a changing industry but it can’t come at the cost of quality.”
Yesterday’s newspapers went out with no major glitches, although the news sections were thinner than usual.
Mr Strom said today’s newspapers suffered as a result of the strikes from thin coverage and a reliance on newswire content.
Fairfax told staff of its proposal to move 66 jobs overseas on Tuesday afternoon.
The 66 staff members would be offered redeployment or voluntary redundancy, but may forcibly be made redundant if insufficient staff accept alternatives.
The proposal would affect staff at the Illawarra Mercury, Newcastle Herald, Lake Times, Kiama Independent, Newcastle Star, Myall Coast Nota, Port Stephens Examiner and Lakes Mail.
Mr Hywood said: “While the proposed changes would necessarily have a substantial impact on our people, we are determined to deliver on the transformation of our business”.