Australia’s Fairfax set to be ‘cut to the bone’ with job losses

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Australian affiliate, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), in strongly condemning the recent announcement by Fairfax media of impending jobs cuts. The IFJ and MEAA are outraged by the announcement which they jointly describe as an “attack on quality journalism” in Australia.

On March 17, Fairfax media editorial director Sean Aylmer informed staff of The Age in Melbourne by email offices and by direct announcement to Sydney Morning Herald staff that they would “shortly enter a consultation period with staff and the MEAA on a proposal to reduce costs across news and business in Sydney and Melbourne newsrooms by the equivalent of 120 full-time employees”, saying they this would be achieved “through redundancies, tightening contributor budgets and reducing travel costs and expenses.”

Staff in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra’s Press Gallery resolved yesterday to strike until first shift Monday. In a  show of solidarity, staff at the Canberra Times, WA Today and the Brisbane Times also determined to  strike for 24 hours, while members at Newcastle’s Herald resolved to strike until the first shift on Saturday. Members at TheIllawarra Mercury joined today, determining to strike for 24 hours. 

The recent announcement of cuts, are the latest in over five years of restructuring and massive job losses at Fairfax media. Since 2011 it is estimated that 750 journalists from Fairfax media have lost their jobs, 350 of them coming from metropolitan dailies, including The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review. There are also reports that Fairfax plans to reduce its number of stories from 9,000 to 6,000 per month, which will ultimately impact on its impact in the media, as well as reduce the quantity of news for consumers. The cuts come after Fairfax media made a first half profit of $24.7 million (USD 18,431,900).

Fairfax journalists have criticized the  two-week consultation period which falls over a holiday period and called for an extension to four weeks. Staff also want full transparency to staff over the cuts, a commitment from Fairfax management that all future restructures will be done through meaningful consultation and want a genuine commitment that Fairfax management works with staff, including the Editors-in-Chief of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review, to minimise job losses and maintain quality

MEAA CEO, Paul Murphy, said: “This is a body blow. It's the staff on the newsroom floor who have driven the transition to digital and through all the challenges continued to produce high quality independent journalism. And this is the reward: yet another savage cut to editorial. We will be fighting for every job.”

The IFJ said it is “an appalling decision by Fairfax Media that cuts to the core of quality journalism in Australia”.

“The IFJ is deeply disturbed at the rationale of a media company that spruiks a $24.7 million profit, yet responds by announcing job cuts to one in four of its journalists. The fact that this has been done with an absence of clear communication to the staff it impacts warrants strong criticism from the global journalist community.

“The IFJ stands with Fairfax journalists and calls on the company to give due respect to the quality journalism that it built its name. No democracy can be adequately serviced by media that is cut to the bone.”

MEAA has launched an online petition posted by the MEAA House Committees at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, condemning the latest job cuts. Support Fairfax staff by signing the petition:

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries

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