Mar 17, 2016

Fairfax journos go on strike as 120 more jobs on the line

"It's absolute chaos with the restructure and now this," an Age staffer said.

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy addressing the Sydney strike

A marathon session of the Senate as it debates changes to voting laws, the Grand Prix, and anything else that happens between now and Monday will not be covered by Fairfax's union journalists, after the vast majority of the company's Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra journalists walked off the job yesterday afternoon, vowing not to return till Monday. In fiery meetings in Melbourne and Sydney, the company's union journalists voted overwhelmingly for a wildcat strike, after the company surprised them by sending an email at 11am on Thursday saying about 120 full-time journos in news and business -- or their equivalent in other cost cuts -- was being sought from the The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review. Some staff out the Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, the Illawarra Mercury, Brisbane Times and WAToday have also gone on 24-hour strikes in solidarity, as have almost all the editorial staff at real estate portal Domain. Management has responded to the strike by telling workers it will dock their pay (as it is legally obliged to). In an email sent out yesterday afternoon, editorial director Sean Aylmer said he was very disappointed that strikes had occurred so early in the consultation process:
"This strike action is unlawful. When employees take unlawful industrial action we have no choice but to dock their pay. "No one should feel pressured to take industrial action at any time. And it's wrong for anyone to pressure someone else to take unlawful industrial action."
Publicly, the company said in a statement that despite the strike it would "continue to publish across print and digital as usual". This should prove easier with the Financial Review than with the Age and SMH, as far fewer of the Fin's staff are unionised, particularly in Sydney (non-union members are not protected in a strike). In the statement, CEO Greg Hywood said: "We are operating in an ever-changing highly competitive media environment which involves rapid evolution of our publishing model. The initiatives we have proposed today are part of that adaptation and are necessary to sustain high-quality journalism.” Many staff felt betrayed by yesterday morning's missile from Aylmer -- they felt they'd been assured only a month ago a significant editorial restructure of the papers would not be accompanied by staff cuts. Many noted staff had been assured that those currently in positions that were disappearing would be able to go back to writing jobs. But it's hard to see Fairfax finding places for people whose jobs no longer exist now. "It's absolute chaos with the restructure and now this," an Age staffer said. At about 3pm today, Fairfax Media’s Sydney staff met on the front lawn outside company headquarters in Pyrmont. The meeting was fronted by house committee representatives Anne Davies and Marcus Strom, both senior journalists, and also Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance CEO Paul Murphy. Davies, gesturing at the group of journalists, photographers and artists, said that there were about 120 people behind her. “This is the number of people who will be losing their jobs if this plan is implemented. “ Murphy from the MEAA said that “the staff here have led the charge and produced quality journalism ... while the company has continued to take the easy option [with job cuts]. How do people keep on doing their jobs when the cuts are so severe?” All speakers emphasised the complete lack of consultation by the company. The email announcing the cuts dropped into staff inboxes only an hour before Alymer addressed the staff in Sydney at noon (he told them the Fairfax metro network would be aiming to publish fewer pieces -- from 9000 a day to 6000 --- with fewer journalists, doing less with less). Asked about the mood of the meeting, one senior staff member described it as “pent-up fury”. Aylmer told them that the money would be found by cutting contributors (there aren’t many), followed by voluntary redundancies and then forced redundancies. The last time Fairfax's Melbourne journalists went on strike, in 2014 to protest against the axing of many photography positions, they filled the lawn at Media House. Yesterday, the strikers included staff from the Financial Review, who are also on strike. But even with this, they could all fit on the steps.


Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

3 thoughts on “Fairfax journos go on strike as 120 more jobs on the line

  1. Tony Power

    Get rid of the CEO & CFO & you could retain 120 journos on $100K+ …Neither have done much to save the company anyway.Then run the company Like Recardo Semler (Semco Brazil)Everyone has a hand in admin & I’m damn sure they would have more hands on nouse in running the company anyway. The Top down model is broken… full of sociopaths with NOOOO imagination.

  2. John Newton

    “to sustain high-quality journalism” which we qill do by firing high quality journalists.

    Makes a lotta sense

  3. AR

    Was that Sheehan, P at the front in white coat with red bag? I’m surprised that he can exist in direct sunlight.
    No doubt he will continue to be FauxFux’s chief polemicist – a man who knows no low beneath which he will not slither.
    Perfect for the sorrow ruin that Wokka wrought on the paper.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details