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"It's horrendous": Journalists' union weighs in on SA job cuts

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In the midst of a particularly bad month for the media industry in South Australia, the union representing journalists has outlined the "bleak" jobs situation at News Corp's Adelaide office and has questioned the ABC's decision to axe several senior newsroom staff.

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MEAA SA branch secretary Angelique Ivanica says she believes News Corp – which publishes The Advertiser, Sunday Mail and Messenger mastheads in South Australia – will outsource or axe almost its entire sub-editing staff, leaving only a small pool of senior editors on-staff at Waymouth Street.

News Corp’s national newspaper, The Australian, reported yesterday that 20 sub-editing jobs and up to five photographers were to be canned as part of a voluntary redundancy scheme, with some jobs to be outsourced.

Ivanica said she was meeting with News Corp today to discuss the cuts which she believed would affect four photographers, some graphic artists and almost all sub-editors who aren’t involved in the so-called “super desk” of senior production staff who oversee the company’s local newspapers.

“The picture there is pretty bleak,” she said. “At least they are calling for voluntaries (redundancies).”

Some of the jobs will be outsourced to Pagemasters – a production house owned by AAP, in which News Corp holds a 50 per cent share.

She did not know exactly how many jobs would be outsourced or made redundant.

“We specifically asked for numbers and they couldn’t give it to us,” she said.

However, she understood that four photographers would lose their jobs – bringing News Corp’s local photography staff down to around 10.

A previous redundancy round last year led to some News Corp photographers joining AAP – essentially a form of outsourcing.

“It’s horrendous,” Ivanica said.

A News Corp spokesperson declined to discuss numbers of staff affected, but stressed that none of the redundancies affected “newsroom reporting numbers”.

“We aim to redeploy as many people as possible to Pagemasters from production in the Adelaide newsroom.”

Meanwhile, the union is also seeking meetings with ABC management over cuts to three senior newsroom positions at Collinswood.

While the ABC insists there will be no net loss of editorial positions, it is seeking to shift the balance of journalists in favour of those with digital skills and experience.

Last month, the ABC announced it would make 20 newsroom positions redundant across the country as part of a strategy to “reshape its eight capital city newsrooms to deliver more in-depth coverage and a faster breaking-news service to local audiences across TV, radio, web and mobile”.

The proposed cuts are clearly targeted at staff who are perceived to lack skills in the digital realm, prompting Ivanica to question why the ABC is hiring new staff in South Australia instead of providing additional training to current staff.

“Why can’t they get digital analytics training? That seems to be the only reason for getting rid of senior broadcast people.”

That question is included in an FAQ document sent to staff by the ABC and seen by InDaily.

“Why not just retrain existing employees for the proposed new roles?,” the document says. “The ABC has endeavoured to retain existing employees in its proposed structure to as great an extent as possible. However, the proposed structure contains new roles which require significantly different skills and experience to positions in the current structure, particularly at a Senior Editorial level. For this reason, the ABC’s initial view is that there is limited possibility for reasonable retraining of employees who are potentially redundant. We will continue to consider this during consultation based on feedback received from employees and unions.”

The MEAA is hoping to meet with ABC management for consultation on the proposed redundancies this week.

Ivanica disputed a report, also in The Australian yesterday, that a senior journalist had been told last week that he would be made directly redundant.

“Not to my knowledge,” she said.

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