800 Aussie journos on strike as bosses plan to send editing jobs to New Zealand
About 70 journalists of the Canberra Times newspaper in the Australian capital walked off the job this morning and will stay on strike until Friday because of proposed job cuts at two regional newspapers owned by the Fairfax newspaper chain.
Journalists at Australia’s largest-circulating newspapers The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Sunday Age, The Sun Herald, and regional newspapers the Newcastle Herald and Wollongong’s Illawarra Mercury have also walked off the job.
They are among 800 journalists of the Fairfax group taking strike action over plans to send 66 sub-editing positions from the regional newspapers to New Zealand. Journalists with the Murdoch-owned News Limited chain are also meeting with union officials at stop-work meetings over ongoing concerns about jobs in the industry, the Brisbane Times reported.
Fairfax staff began walking out at 5.30pm yesterday (Wednesday).
The Australian Associated Press report from the Brisbane Times:
At 7pm yesterday, the company issued a statement saying it would continue to publish as usual and was disappointed at the decision to strike.
Protesters outside the Illawarra Mercury hold mock New Zealand-inspired newspaper covers
Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood said: “Understandably our people are unsettled when they see significant changes to the way the business has operated in the past. But as I have stated many times, 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.”
In February, the company launched a three-year $170 million savings program to combat plunging circulation with its share price down more than 50 per cent from a year ago, amid 10 per cent a year falls in revenue.
Falls in newspaper circulation in March are believed to be the biggest on record, with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the worst examples.
Fairfax’s biggest shareholder and Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart has publicly criticised Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett twice in the past week over the company’s performance.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s director of media Paul Murphy said the outsourcing decision was wrong, with sub-editors ‘‘the heart of the newsroom’’.
Regional newspapers were the strongest performers financially in print last year but were being targeted, leaving Fairfax journalists confused, he said.
There have also been reports this week about News Ltd announcing between 400 and 1000 job cuts within days, with the company cutting about 12 jobs in Sydney and Gosford yesterday.
Mr Murphy said he did not think major cuts would occur anytime soon, saying News Limited had been consulting openly with his union and had not said yet there would be redundancies.
However Australia’s newspaper industry was given a dire outlook for the next three years by EL&C Baillieu Stockbroking media analyst Ivor Ries.
He said the take-up of devices like iPads was increasing and that meant more shrinkage for newspapers for another two-to-three years.
‘‘The newspaper will be around but they will be smaller,’’ he told AAP.
‘‘Within two-to-three years these papers will have more people working on the online product than on the print one.’’