16 Feb 2016

70 more Fairfax Media jobs to go

7:22 pm on 16 February 2016

Fairfax Media today told 70 of its editorial team their jobs will go as part of a proposal the company says will save it money.

Fairfax Media owns the Waikato Times, The Dominion Post, The Press, The Sunday Star Times, many other newspapers - and the website stuff.co.nz.

Company executives told staff this afternoon the jobs of journalists working for subsidiary Fairfax Editorial Services (FES) would be dis-established. The jobs to go are in sub-editing - the layout, design and proof reading of online news and newspaper pages.

Local journalists employed by FES work on Fairfax Media publications in both New Zealand and Australia. Fairfax executives are proposing to move the sub-editing work to Pagemasters, an Australian-owned company which previously carried out the work for its Australian publications.

Requests for comment by Mediawatch were unanswered by Fairfax staff in New Zealand, but Fairfax Media's director of communications in Australia, Brad Hatch, confirmed the move.

"Today we briefed approximately 70 full-time equivalent staff in New Zealand that would be affected by a proposal to move editorial production ... to a third-party provider, Pagemasters, which would operate from both New Zealand and Australia," he said.

"The proposed new arrangements would provide Fairfax additional flexibility and savings. Consultation with staff is ongoing."

It is not clear how many New Zealand staff could be re-employed by Pagemasters.

It is the second major restructure involving job losses at Fairfax within a year; more than 180 editorial positions were disestablished and 160 new ones created when a "digital-first" strategy was unveiled last May.

Fairfax said at the time the aim was not to cut costs, but to create a "new digital-centric editorial and production practices to deliver quality content to audiences, when and how they want it".

Ill-fated move

Fairfax Media moved the sub-editing of some Australian papers, including The Age and The Canberra Times, to New Zealand in 2012. More followed in 2013 and Finance Minister Bill English said New Zealand was benefiting from a more flexible industrial relations environment.

In June 2014, more jobs crossed the Tasman when more Australian newspapers - including the Sydney Morning Herald - ended a previous contract with Pagemasters.

But Fairfax Media in Australia is now under great financial pressure and its decision to do business with Pagemasters once again for its Australian publications is all about saving money.

Fairfax will pay based on the number of pages and stories Pagemasters completes for their publications.

Fairfax Media editorial director in Australia Sean Aylmer said editorial production of TV listings would continue in Wellington.

"We are confident that Pagemasters here and in New Zealand will continue to support our quality journalism and newsrooms as they take shape for the future," Mr Aylmer said.

New Zealand sub-editors have often been blamed for errors in Fairfax's Australian papers since production moved offshore, though that was not cited as a factor in today's announcement.

And sometimes the company's own journalists in Australia have pointed the finger at Kiwi staff for mistakes.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs