When ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie announced the restructure at the national broadcaster on Tuesday last week, much was made of cutting back-office jobs and middle management, while investing in content.
But the Hunger Games-style redundancy pools used in 2014 to adapt to budget cuts are again being used to choose news and TV operations and support staff who will go, damaging morale even further at the national broadcaster.
Operations staff include camera operators, directors, producers, floor staff, sound technicians and some content maker roles.
Guthrie announced that between 150 and 200 jobs would go by the end of the financial year, focusing on cutting the bureaucracy and middle management in the organisation.
“The immediate response delivers the new structure, with reduced management layers across the corporation and a process to address duplication in support functions. The savings will go directly into content creation. We aim to reduce management roles by 20% across the corporation, with support areas to bear a heavier percentage of this cut,” Guthrie said in her announcement to staff.
But as well as those management cuts, 49 positions will be made redundant in news operations and support, and 36 positions in television. That could make up more than half of the jobs that will go.
Of the news positions, 26 roles to go are operations, and 23 are support staff. Community and Public Sector Union ABC section secretary Sinddy Ealy said the television roles would mostly be operations.
Ealy said the trauma of the cuts made in 2014 was still haunting staff at the ABC. Widely referred to as the Hunger Games redundancies, groups of staff in similar positions were pooled together to select staff to be made redundant. Ealy said in some cases the redundancies were targeted.
“The psychological damage done to this workforce during the round of redundancies in 2014 is still walking the corridors of the ABC,” she said.
“To use this process again is not going to create the stability the ABC needs for this restructure. If you’re a talented individual who sees an opportunity to leave at the moment, why wouldn’t you?”
One ABC cameraman, who has not been affected by these redundancies and who has shot footage for news and current affairs programs on the national broadcaster, told Crikey morale was extremely low among the operations staff.
“There isn’t much in the way of quality shows to work on, unless you want to shoot news,” he said. “Some of us want more and are finding it hard to see any opportunities to make long-format television. The very reason that I strived to join the ABC was to make quality programs.”
“Cuts mean that I have nothing to aspire to. There isn’t a will to do your best and work harder when there is nothing more than news to shoot.”
The cameraman said the cuts had been expected, given the ongoing requirements of the budget cuts to the ABC.
“People are very upset by this. Morale is low, and I can’t see it changing,” he said.
Ealy says it’s not yet known what jobs would be created and where they would be, but the redundancies signal an increasing casualisation of the ABC’s workforce.
“The ABC will lose flexibility, so it’s likely there will be full-scale outsourcing of TV production,” she said. “There won’t be internal TV production.”
She says the remaining staff are still producing high-quality content with what they have.
“People who are committed to the ABC have kept the ABC from losing its quality. People have huge pride in the ABC because they don’t want to let each other down and they don’t want to let audiences down, and management has exploited that as they work harder.”