Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More jobs going at Fairfax Media

Today's top business story is about my own employer, Fairfax Media, which is axing about 160 jobs in New Zealand as part of a group move to cut costs and be "lean and agile" in the modern media world.

The words "lean and agile" are those of David Kirk, chief executive of the trans-Tasman group. Altogether, Fairfax is cutting about 550 jobs - or 5 percent of its workforce - in a move that is expected to save about $A50 million ($62 million) a year.

Fairfax New Zealand chief executive Joan Withers says the jobs going in New Zealand include those of 30 people already made redundant by the centralisation of newspaper sub-editing, plus those of another 30 people who are leaving as a result of "natural attrition".

Kirk says he is "very comfortable" about the move, and doesn't believe it will "in any sense" undermine the quality of the Fairfax newspapers, which include The Sunday Star-Times, The Dominion Post, The Press, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.

But the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union disagrees. In a press release issued today, it says:

Fairfax's proposed redundancies will be a huge blow to already strained newsrooms and to New Zealanders' democratic right to be properly informed about their country's major issues, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

The 160 redundancies were announced today and follow the Australian media giant registering a profit of AU$387 million - a 47% increase on the previous return.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says the move will ultimately hurt New Zealand journalism and Fairfax's bottom line.

"Fairfax claims these cuts are about adapting to new technologies and platforms but the way to deal with these changes is to increase the size of newsrooms and compete on the quality of news.

"Further reducing newsrooms will only mean more of their already overworked journalists will struggle to give properly researched treatment to their stories and as a result their readers will not get the information they need to make informed decisions in their day to day lives.

"That this is happening in an election year is particularly disturbing as this is a time in which people need the best information possible to make important decisions about the future of New Zealand.

"A strong and well resourced fourth estate is a vital part of a functioning democracy but today Fairfax dealt a blow to all New Zealanders."

The EPMU will be taking the issue to its members to discuss its next move.

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