Fairfax staffers are demanding the company extend its voluntary redundancy round for journalists whose roles are axed or dramatically changed in the editorial overhaul due to be announced this afternoon.

The new reporting structures, aimed at reducing duplication between mastheads, had been expected to be outlined on Monday, giving staffers five days to mull their future before applications close on Friday afternoon.

Fairfax insiders say management has been stunned by the amount of applications and how high-profile and experienced many of the applicants are. Crikey understands some staffers at The Age have had their applications approved then put on hold by management following the stronger-than-expected take up.

An official at the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance this morning estimated there have been 140 applications for the 150 voluntary editorial redundancies on offer.

“The sheer journalistic nous that’s going to walk out the door is astounding,” Stuart Washington, a senior Sydney Morning Herald journalist, told Crikey this morning. “Any process like this makes everyone reconsider their future and kick the tyres on opportunities that may or may not exist outside this place.”

Washington, who leads his paper’s MEAA house committee, says there is a strong chance more than 150 editorial staffers will apply. “I’m betting London to a brick that people will leave it to the very last minute to put their applications in,” he said. “I expect there’ll be a late rush.”

The upside of this would be that compulsory redundancies wouldn’t be necessary; the downside that staffers keen for a payout won’t get it.

Washington acknowledged the doubt about who’s staying or going has damaged morale in the newsroom, but says staff have embraced management’s vision for a digital future. “We broadly support the way the editorial review is being rolled out — it’s being done in a considered and consultative manner … It’s not that it’s being done; it’s that it’s being done too late,” he said.

Washington says he’s not aware of management rejecting any redundancy applications so far.

The six resolutions passed at yesterday’s stop work meetings at the SMH, The Age and The Canberra Times were:

  1. Given reports that the current redundancy round has been heavily subscribed, this meeting resolves not to accept any forced redundancies … We call on the company to reciprocate this goodwill, and join us in focussing on the only thing that matters for the future of the business — ensuring the continuing delivery of quality independent journalism.
  2. We expect the company to honour written and verbal commitments it has made to staff regarding the individual’s eligibility for voluntary redundancies.
  3. This meeting regards a Wednesday announcement of 32 key positions as insufficient time for people to consider their future and not in keeping with the company’s original timetable of at least seven days ahead of the closure of the voluntary redundancy round to consider new roles and positions.
  4. We note with concern that Fairfax of the Future cost-cutting efforts — which fall well outside the existing editorial review process — look likely to be introduced into newsrooms. We believe if there are areas to be affected by cost-cutting they are subject to the current conditions of the EBA regarding consultation.
  5. This meeting calls on the Company to guarantee Sydney Editorial Assistants have access to the editorial redundancy provisions, and that they have access to applying for redundancy in the current round.
  6. We urge the company to finalise the new structure and new management positions as soon as possible to allow staff to make informed decisions once the new structure is clear.

Fairfax management has not yet responded to these resolutions, and the company declined to comment this morning. CEO Greg Hywood will announce the company’s full financial year results tomorrow morning.

Crikey has been updating a list of Fairfax journalists, editors and sub-editors who have announced they will leave the company following  Hywood’s June announcement that 1900 jobs would be slashed. Music writer Bruce Elder yesterday announced he is leaving The SMH after 25 years at the paper.