News Corp is gearing up for a redundancy round in the early part of 2016.
The size of the cut is the source of some dispute. Journalists Crikey spoke to believe management wants to cut 5% of the workforce. It’s believed if News Corp invited journalists to put their hands up for redundancy, that figure could be easily reached from those who want to go. But a News Corp insider hosed down talk of a set target, and noted a 5% workforce reduction would equate to hundreds of staff in a company the size of News Corp.
There has been no official announcement made to staff, but in some instances managers have quietly told individuals that such a shake-up is coming. Those approaching managers to seek promotions, for example, have been warned if they are given a new position it might be on a temporary contract basis, as middle managers are not sure which positions will exist by the middle of next year.
While News Corp’s editorial workforce has been shrinking through natural attrition — not all who leave are replaced — there hasn’t been a major redundancy round at the company since the 2012-13 financial year, under Kim Williams, when one in eight staff at News Corp’s papers were let go in the course of a year. But journalists who keep an eye on the number of ads in their papers believe a trimming of the workforce is inevitable.
Another factor adds a deadline to plans to cut the workforce. News Corps’ current union-negotiated industrial agreement with staff is due to run out in the second half of next year. It is traditional for companies to cut costs in the lead-up to such negotiations, as unions and workers find it difficult to push for improved wages and conditions when the business as a whole is contracting.
News Corp’s main competitor, Fairfax, is also shrinking its workforce. As Crikey has previously reported, staff are meeting with management about the introduction of the company’s new digital strategy, known as Sunrise. Those unhappy with the strategy are being encouraged to put their hand up for redundancy. While reputable sources have told Crikey there is no set target for redundancies as a result of this particular initiative, many expect the workforce to shrink. Fairfax staff talk of the company having a “black list” of journalists deemed surplus to requirements.
Asked if News Corp was planning a redundancy round in the new year, a spokesman declined to comment.