BUSINESSDESK: Troubled Australasian publisher Fairfax Media has confirmed it will go ahead and shift 66 sub-editing jobs on some of its Australian regional newspapers to New Zealand.
News of the decision, which sparked wildcat strikes on major Australian titles such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, came as Fairfax forecast an 18% slump in annual earnings this year as the global decline of the newspaper industry takes hold across the Tasman.
The Fairfax outsourcing decision sparked an angry reaction from the Australian journalists' union, the Media Alliance, which said talks to try and preserve the jobs in Australia had collapsed, despite offering a one-third cut in staff numbers employed in the roles being sent to New Zealand.
"Our sub-hub proposal would enable skilled subeditors to remain embedded within the community while delivering Fairfax the very cost savings it seeks by offshoring," alliance acting federal secretary Paul Murphy said.
The proposal "would have reduced the number of journalists previously seen as necessary in stand-alone newsroom structures from about 60 staff to 40".
"Given the local knowledge and expertise of existing staff, it would be possible to operate in Newcastle and Wollongong with fewer staff numbers than the company’s flawed New Zealand scheme," said Mr Murphy, referring to plans to outsource sub-editing on papers including the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury.
The Media Alliance made headlines in New Zealand last year when another of its branches, representing actors, sought to impose Australian film contract terms and conditions on New Zealand actors on the Peter Jackson production of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.
"The readers of the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury have made it clear that they want their local papers produced locally. Fairfax Media has ignored its customers,” Mr Murphy said.