Members of the National Union of Journalists working for Cardiff-based Media Wales have passed a motion of no confidence in Reach plc’s senior executives over their handling of a group-wide redundancy announcement this week.
More than 70 journalists working for the company – the majority of the workforce – have been told their jobs are on a redundancy “at risk” list.
NUJ members have also expressed grave concerns about the group’s commitment to Wales following a decision to effectively merge Media Wales with an English division of Reach covering the Midlands, Cheshire and Lincolnshire.
Reach plc announced on Tuesday that it intended to cut 550 jobs as a result of diminished revenues because of the impact of Covid-19.
The company formerly known as Trinity Mirror owns the Western Mail, South Wales Echo, South Wales Evening Post and other local newspapers in the south of Wales.
But so far its Media Wales journalists have been given no indication about how many job losses the company expects to impose.
Staff at the Daily Post newspaper in the north of Wales, which is owned by a separate branch of Reach Plc, have also been told their jobs are in the balance.
‘Insult to injury’
Martin Shipton, Father of the Media Wales NUJ Chapel (office branch chair) said: “Our hardworking members are shocked by the scale of the job cuts announcement, with 72.3 full time equivalent editorial posts being put at risk of redundancy.
“They have given their all during the pandemic to produce high-quality content for print and online, yet even at this stage they have not been told how many of them the company wants to leave the organisation.
“We have no quarrel with our local managers, who have also been kept in the dark. These changes have been planned by the senior executive team in London.
“To add insult to injury they have done away with our editor in chief and Media Wales is being amalgamated with the English Midlands division of Reach under a ‘Marketplace Publisher’ based in Birmingham, whose remit covers the English Midlands as well as Cheshire and Lincolnshire.
“There are also plans, which have not been explained in detail, that involve integrating what we do in Media Wales with the London-based “national” papers, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and the Daily Star, as well as their websites.
“The redundancy proposals are subject to a 45-day consultation period. During this process we shall do what we can as a union to fight for our members’ jobs and for the future of quality journalism in Wales.
“Members of the chapel have this afternoon unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in Reach plc’s senior management team for their mishandling of this situation.”
Earlier this week the First Minister expressed concern about Wales’ news media after newspapers and news sites announced significant jobs cuts.
He said that the weakening of the media would be damaging to Welsh democracy and urged companies to rethink planned redundancies.
Last week newspaper group Newsquest also announced a large round of job cuts, with 25 posts to be lost in Wales.
Its titles in Wales include the Western Telegraph, South Wales Argus, South Wales Guardian, The Leader, Tivyside Advertiser and Pembrokeshire Farmer.
Mark Drakeford said that the Welsh media had played a “crucial” role in keeping people informed during the Covid-19 crisis.
“A democracy needs a strong media, not only to hold elected representatives to account, but to inform people about what their democratically-elected institutions are doing on their behalf,” he said.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic, the media in Wales have played a crucial role in doing just that.
“That’s why I am concerned several media groups have recently announced plans to cut jobs. Any further cuts to the media in Wales will be damaging to Welsh democracy.
“The Welsh Government urges those groups to rethink their plans.”