Contributed by a member of the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA)
Fairfax met Press Freedom Day (3 May 2017) by announcing the cut of 125 jobs. In an angry response, journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age went on a one long strike.
Fairfax has also announced that it will cap rates for freelance contributors and cut payments to casuals, to cut a further $3 million from its budget.
Sackings will be spread across both newspapers and have an impact on The Australian Financial Review and WA Today as well.
Journalists are asking for public support and for people no to buy The Age, while the strike is on.
The strike is illegal under the Fair Work Act. But the mood is so livid that the walkout occurred regardless.
Although Fairfax, along with other print media, is losing circulation and therefore revenue,journalists feel that it is wrong that they should to suffer the cost of change in the digital age and that it is up to management to find fair and workable solutions.
There is also serious concern that with fewer jobs and increased workloads that the depth quality of what is reported will be compromised. Management and government already impose significant restrictions on journalists telling their stories. This can only make it worse.
Fairfax management said in an internal note:
“While we will be looking across all parts of the newsroom, at the end of the redundancy program we expect there will be significantly fewer editorial management, video, presentation and section writer roles” .
Fairfax’s incredible lack of sensitivity in awarding CEO Greg Hywood’s a $2.5 million share bonus at almost the same time as announcing the sackings has not been missed and there is a call for
senior management to cut their own salaries by 25 percent, to meet the company’s $30 million savings target.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union that represents journalists, has slammed the move, saying it is “appalled” and the decision will weaken the Fairfax business.
“None of the other parts of the Fairfax business are worth anything without the journalism, and yet it is the journalism that Fairfax always cuts,” MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said.
“This will only undermine and damage its mastheads further, alienating its audience and leaving the remaining editorial staff having to work harder and harder to fill the gaps.
“This is a dumb decision.”
The journalists have rejected forced redundancies and called for voluntary rounds to be open for at least three weeks.
The Fairfax job cuts follow only weeks after rival News Corporation announced its own cutting of frontline staff, targeting photographers and production staff.