Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie has warned that the Scottish Newspaper Industry faces difficult times if the Herald and Times Group, publishers of the Sunday Herald, Herald and Evening Times, is allowed to force through drastic cuts in its workforce and changes in working practices. Staff are being dismissed and invited to apply for fewer jobs on poorer pay and conditions.
Speaking in a Scottish parliament debate on the issue, Cathy noted that such was the outrage at the actions of the new editor in chief of Newsquest (Herald and Times), Donald Martin, that about 60 MSPs signed one or more of the three motions – including one from Cathy – that were lodged when it was announced that Sunday Herald, Herald and Evening Times staff would be made redundant.
“Newsquest does not seem to care about the widespread opposition and concern. The group is refusing to negotiate and seems determined to impose a settlement. It does not seem to care about industrial relations and the agreements that it made with the unions, and it does not seem to care about the quality and diversity of the Scottish media, having shown little regard for the assurances that it gave the Competition Commission. What it does seem to care about is money. The group is not in financial difficulty. It makes massive profits, but it clearly feels that it does not make enough. It is difficult not to conclude that the cuts are the result of greed and not need.
“On the adoption of new production technology, the NUJ notes: “every other media employer in Scotland is working with the union to try to handle these changes in a civilised manner.” I believe that the group’s actions are unwarranted and unacceptable. If the group goes ahead with its plan to merge the titles, it is likely that 30 to 40 jobs will be lost. Those who remain are likely to be on reduced pay and conditions, including lower holiday entitlement and new, enforced shift patterns. Added to the existing concerns about stress and other health and safety issues, that cannot be good for the staff or the quality of the newspapers.Its plans represent a significant threat to the health of the newspaper industry in Scotland, and we in the Scottish Parliament must oppose them. The plans might increase the group’s short-term profitability, but downgrading the quality of its product is not a recipe for sustainability. For the sake of Scotland and its media, the Herald group should take a step back, rethink its strategy, and work with the NUJ to achieve sustainable, long-term success.”