Fairfax’s radical centralisation drive is beginning to bite in the company’s commercial departments, with sales staff departing en masse and some customer service operations about to be outsourced.

Crikey understands that around 20 advertising staffers have resigned in the past week alone. The exodus comes in the wake of last week’s announcement that food and wine commercial director Simon Bates was jumping ship to MTV.

More departures from Fairfax’s metro sales teams are expected over coming weeks through redundancies. Some of those forced to leave may be able to pick up roles with in Rural Press’ digital division which is taking on staff.

Crikey can also reveal that Fairfax will put some of its inbound and outbound customer service operations out to tender later this month. The company is still deciding which teams’ tasks will be outsourced, but it’s clear call centre staff will lose their jobs.

Speculation is swirling about the future of Robert Whitehead, Fairfax’s long-serving director of marketing and newspaper sales. Whitehead, who served as editor of The Sydney Morning Herald from 2000-2005, declined to comment, but Fairfax insiders insist he is being moved to another role. One source said he is being found a “seat warming job”; another said he was in the “holding bay”.

Whitehead was heavily involved in the development of the SMH‘s popular iPad app.

Sixty per cent of Fairfax’s 1900 job cuts are expected to come from outside the company’s editorial and printing press employees.