Australia: Journalists to strike against job cuts

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Aug 28 2008 15:30
Australia: Journalists to strike against job cuts

I just wrote this up quickly for LibCom News / Aotearoa Indymedia:

Quote:
Australia: Journalists to strike against job cuts

After the announcement that 550 jobs would be cut by Fairfax Media in Australia and New Zealand on August 26th, journalists at The Age (Melbourne, Australia) and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers have decided to go on strike until Monday. A Fairfax spokeswoman announced that both papers would come out on Friday, but refused to comment on whether weekend papers would be affected.

Fairfax, which owns many of the highest circulation newspapers in both countries, increased its profit by 46.8% in the year to June 2008, to AU$386.9 million, but is claiming it needs to reduce costs to increase profits even further. Of the jobs to go, 160 have been announced for New Zealand (100 further redundancies, and non-replacement of 60 staff who had recently left or been made redundant) with the rest across the Australian Fairfax stable.

“This was a motion that arose spontaneously from the floor of the meeting because people are angry at the way the company has treated them both in terms of Enterprise Agreement negotiations and also the redundancy announcements,” said Michael Bachelard, a senior journalist at The Age.

“Age staff are passionate about their masthead and their readers, and are disappointed that the managers of the company appear willing to sacrifice quality journalism for the sake of the bottom line.”

An email to all Fairfax staff from the CEO announcing the job cuts and restructuring was leaked to The Australian, a competitor to the Fairfax papers.

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Aug 29 2008 12:47

Brief update: The NZ Herald is reporting that

Quote:
Wearing t-shirts reading "Fair Go Fairfax" and "Don't Discount Journalism", about 80 Fairfax journalists picketed the offices at Pyrmont in central Sydney.

Additional security surrounded the building, a move some picketers jokingly dubbed Fairfax's "ring of steel".

Also:

Quote:
Earlier today, prominent columnist Mike Carlton was sacked after refusing to cross the picket line to write his weekly column for the Herald's Saturday edition.
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Aug 30 2008 12:35

Now they've been threatened with a lockout when the strike ends on Monday:

Quote:
Media Alliance alert: Company threat to staff
Saturday, 30 August 2008

Dear Fairfax member,

Members of your union’s negotiating team met with Fairfax management earlier today, following a request from the company. Ruth Pollard, Gerard Noonan, Chris Warren and Claire O’Rourke represented members, and the company sent Lloyd Whish-Wilson, Michael Gill and Greg Moses.

What the company presented at the meeting was an ultimatum.

The company told us that they would not allow staff members who are currently on strike to return to work on Monday unless we accepted the collective agreement offer in its current form.

This top-down ultimatum delivered today stands to directly breach undertakings the company made yesterday afternoon in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission not to lock out staff who return to work on Monday.

The company reiterated its ultimatum despite repeated undertakings from myself that no further unprotected action would take place and that staff were prepared to return to work as usual, on Monday morning, and thereafter, with no further bans in place.

Your representatives reminded the company that any action to lock out staff would be unlawful and if they were to exercise their threat, we would pursue the company in the AIRC.

Your national negotiating group met for two hours on Saturday evening to consider the situation.