A reprieve for journalists at Fairfax … or at least for a dozen or two.

Editorial director Sean Aylmer told hacks this morning that “non-staff savings” had been found equating to 20 full-time roles kept.

But that still means 100-odd must go, something the company refuses to back down from after meeting with staff and union representatives. Staff will stop work tomorrow at 1pm in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the latest decision.

Consultation with staff closed on Tuesday. Voluntary redundancies will be called for first, across newsrooms at the The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review. Staff have until May 2 to raise their hands.

Aylmer said in his missive:

“Thank you to everyone who provided feedback and ideas around cutting costs. Some of your ideas have been adopted and we will commence implementing them shortly. I would also like to thank the MEAA for its efforts in identifying potential cost reductions …

“As flagged in my announcement to staff on 17 March 2016, we have been reviewing non staff costs at the same time as consulting on redundancies. We have identified non-staff savings which amount to the equivalent of 20 full time jobs. This will be achieved predominantly through reduced contributor spend and some pagination savings.

“To reach the rest of the savings required, a Voluntary Redundancy (VR) program for the equivalent of 100 FTEs will be open to all editorial staff in the News and Business verticals covered by the Fairfax Media – Metropolitan Journalists Enterprise Agreement 2014.”

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance was hoping for a better result. Its statement today is critical of the decision to exempt executives from the purge — it presented management with a plan of wage freezes and salary cuts for senior suits but Fairfax said that was “outside the scope” of its cost-cutting.

MEAA media director Katelin McInerney said in a statement:

“The loss of these jobs will severely affect Fairfax’s news-gathering and reporting capability meaning that the real losers will be readers. It is not sustainable to expect the same output with 100 fewer journalists. Something has to give and it will be quality. There simply will not be as many ‘boots on the ground’ reporting on the stories that matter to Fairfax readers.

“The company has largely rejected sensible and creative alternative cost saving proposals put forward by its journalists — the people who best know and understand the business. The journalists are angry that the company has ruled out any reductions of executive bonuses and salaries. Collectively, the top four execs and the board earned almost $6.5 million last year.

“The outcome of the consultation process with the company is highly unsatisfactory. The lack of clarity about how and where the redundancies will be achieved only deepens the concerns of journalists who worry about how their newsrooms will operate in future.”

Peter Fray

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