IFJ Backs Journalists Protest Over Job Cuts as Aussie Bosses Get Million-dollar Cash Bonus

The International Federation of Journalists today backed journalists from several leading newspapers in Sydney who are locked in negotiations with management over plans to axe almost 70 jobs.

Journalists in Sydney voted to return to work today after striking over management plans to cut up to 68 editorial jobs at The Sydney MorningHerald,The Age and associated publications, which could have been avoided, says the journalists union, if million-dollar cash bonuses had not been paid to top-level executives.

“One of the things that makes people deeply angry is that these entire cuts would have been made unnecessary without the quite obscene payments that have been made to senior executives of the company,” said Christopher Warren, IFJ President, and Federal Secretary of the union involved, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

Staff representatives today met with management to reject the foreshadowed job cuts as unnecessary. They called on senior executives to take a 20 per cent salary cut and return performance bonuses. Stopwork meetings were held in Sydney and Melbourne yesterday.

The IFJ is supporting its affiliate in Australia, the MEAA, which has sought assurances from management not to undercut existing redundancy deals and conditions of employment as a result of planned changes to federal industrial relations laws.

The union says the resolutions will be put to management shortly and further strike action will be likely if management tries to force redundancies on staff.

“Without payments of that level the company would be in a much stronger financial position and it's clear now from what the company is saying that those payments were unsustainables,” said Warren.

Earlier this week, staff from the Sydney MorningHerald,The Herald Sun and The Age were told the cutbacks were the result of "lacklustre revenue performance" at the company's metropolitan newspapers. The plan to cut up to 30 editorial positions in Melbourne and 35 in Sydney - or between 6 and 7.5 per cent of the total editorial workforce - could involve forced layoffs, if not enough people elected to take voluntary redundancies. The cuts would save Fairfax, which owns the newspapers, about $8million a year.

During the 45-minute meeting in Sydney, editor-in-chief Mark Scott faced hostile questions over the $4.5million golden handshake for outgoing chief executive Fred Hilmer and the $1.2 million sign-on bonus given to his replacement.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries