Fairfax announces 80 editorial redundancies
Fairfax journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age have voted to strike for 24 hours after the company announced it was all but disbanding its award-winning photographic department and making 80 journalists redundant.
The company has called for redundancies including 30 photographers and 33 editorial production staff.
A stopwork meeting at the Herald on Wednesday afternoon voted 159-1 in favour of strike action. Journalists at the Age in Melbourne also voted to walk out.
Two photographers will be retained in Canberra, five in Sydney and five in Melbourne, sources say. Fairfax plans to outsource most photographic jobs to Getty Images.
The photographic department was called to a meeting at Fairfax Media Sydney headquarters at 10am on Wednesday and given the news, a result of an efficiency study.
It will be whittled from 50 to 20, made up of key photographers based in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and a picture desk of 10 to commission photographs from Getty.
“New photographic arrangements would see News, Life and Business in Sydney and Melbourne make greater use of external service provider Getty Images for photographic assignments,” staff were told.
Some photographers say the new deal with Getty puts Fairfax’s independence on the line because Getty does both commercial and editorial work, creating the potential for conflicts of interest.
The managing director of Australian Publishing Media, Fairfax Media, Allen Williams, told staff the news in an email on Wednesday.
“The proposed changes outlined below are focused on the continuing transformation of our business,” Williams said. “We must deliver our high-quality content in the most efficient way possible.
“We will be consulting with affected staff and holding briefings to address any questions you may have about each of the proposed new arrangements.”
Williams said the current contract for outsourcing subediting to Pagemasters was about to expire and a new arrangement would soon be announced. More than half of the production staff is set to go.
“Any new arrangements will absorb more copy-editing and page layout work,” Williams said.
He said a “more flexible structure that better suits modern journalism practices is being proposed” for Life Media, resulting in the loss of another 15 full-time equivalent jobs.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) labelled the cuts “an assault on the quality journalism that has been the hallmark of the group for more than a century”.
The union was holding stop-work meetings with members at the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Canberra Times on Wednesday.
“This will further erode the ability of the staff who remain to do their jobs without a marked increase in work intensification,” MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said. “It strips a massive loss in skills, experience and knowledge from the group.
“When do we reach the point of no return? Why isn’t more effort being made to protect and promote editorial quality and utilise smarter ways of working? At what point does Fairfax stop being a news organisation and merely become a commissioning agency that outsources everything it does?”
Fairfax has prided itself in employing the best photographers in the country and showcasing their work for which it has won multiple awards.
“Our photographic needs across all platforms continue to be commissioned by editorial, however most assignments will be facilitated by Getty photographers for our publications,” Williams said. “Fairfax retains the copyright in the photos and they will be for Fairfax’s exclusive use.
“The changes we are proposing are similar to the more progressive and efficient models being used by other media organisations around the world.