Fairfax Media Australia proposes up to 80 job cuts: what does this mean for the Kiwi side of the business?

  • Media
  • May 8, 2014
  • Damien Venuto
Fairfax Media Australia proposes up to 80 job cuts: what does this mean for the Kiwi side of the business?

Yesterday's announcement that Fairfax Media had proposed 80 redundancies in Australia could result in jobs moving across to New Zealand as the conglomerate continues to incorporate cost-cutting measures.

In a staff note, which was initially circulated internally at Fairfax Australia, Allen Williams, the managing director of Australian publishing media at Fairfax Media, outlined a slew of changes that would occur in the photographic, life media and editorial production departments of the business.

In terms of photography, Fairfax will now be sourcing more of its imagery from stock image provider Getty Images, leading to the release of approximately 30 full-time employees. 

"Our photographic needs across all platforms continue to be commissioned by editorial however most assignments will be facilitated by Getty photographers for our publications," said Allen.

He also said that restructuring of Life Media would result in the cutting of approximately 15 full-time jobs, but added that there would be several new positions created by the change. 

Although the moves in the Life Media and photography departments are significant for the Australian arm of the business and have resulted in strikes in the country, they are unlikely to have an impact on Kiwi operations.  

The only proposed changes that could have a carry-over effect in New Zealand are those relating to the editorial department.  

In his note, Allen explained that The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age and the The Canberra Times were currently relying on an external agreement with "Pagemasters [part of the Australian Associated Press] for copy-editing across news, business and sport print sections."

"The contract with Pagemasters expires soon and we are in the process of reviewing these external arrangements. Any new arrangements will absorb more copy-editing and page layout work. As a result, we propose to reduce our in-house editorial production team by about 35 FTEs in Sydney and Melbourne no later than December 2014," he said.

When the news was released yesterday, Mumbrella speculated that these "new arrangements" could involve as many as 40 jobs   moving across to New Zealand.

Such an arrangement would not be new for Fairfax Australia, given that the company last year shifted 13 copy-editing jobs across the ditch on account of the same services being more affordable here.

Sinead Boucher, the group executive editor of Fairfax Media in New Zealand, was asked whether there was any truth to the claim that these jobs would be shifted to New Zealand but she declined to comment, instead referring us to the Australian arm, which similarly refrained from making an official statement.

She did however say that the structural shifts occurring in Australia did not serve as a precursor for further restructuring of the New Zealand business, which last year underwent a slew of changes.

"Fairfax New Zealand's editorial team is structured very differently to our Australian counterparts. We have already been through a successful reorganisation process, including the upskilling of our photographers in videography. We currently produce around nine hours of video content per week and in April, visitors to Stuff consumed over seven million video views," she says.

Williams' full letter:

Good morning,

Today we have started discussions with staff about introducing new arrangements in Editorial Production, Life Media and Photographic in Australian Publishing Media.

The proposed changes outlined below are focused on the continuing transformation of our business. We must deliver our high-quality content in the most efficient way possible.

We will be consulting with affected staff and holding briefings to address any questions you may have about each of the proposed new arrangements.

EDITORIAL PRODUCTION

Fairfax currently operates a company-wide approach to editorial production, which involves delivering copy-editing and page layout services in a variety of ways to meet the needs of our mastheads.

Three years ago The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and more recently The Canberra Times started working with Pagemasters for copy-editing across news, business and sport print sections. The contract with Pagemasters expires soon and we are in the process of reviewing these external arrangements.

Any new arrangements will absorb more copy-editing and page layout work. As a result, we propose to reduce our in-house editorial production team by about 35 FTEs in Sydney and Melbourne no later than December 2014. Included in this number are 10 roles, currently part of the editorial production team, which will move to report directly to newsroom editors. These new positions will be open for application to all News, Business and Life editorial staff.

Our retained team of about 33 FTEs remain reporting to the Managing Editor Production (Australia), Tanya Adams. This team will handle key digital and print production for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and magazines.  

LIFE MEDIA

New arrangements would see Life Media restructure some of its divisions to make greater use of contributors to deliver editorial content. The proposed changes preserve our commitment to quality and would help accelerate the continued growth and expansion of these areas which are an important part of our business.

A more flexible structure that better suits modern journalism practices is being proposed and briefings will be conducted today and tomorrow in both Sydney and Melbourne with those affected. We anticipate a reduction of approximately 15 FTEs.

The new structure would create several new roles and these positions will be open for application to all News, Business and Life Media editorial staff.

PHOTOGRAPHIC

New photographic arrangements would see News, Life and Business in Sydney and Melbourne make greater use of external service provider Getty Images for photographic assignments.

The proposed changes would see a reduction of approximately 30 FTEs, retaining approximately 10 staff photographers and approximately 10 photo desk staff who would work as part of a merged visuals commissioning desk. There would be significantly less use of casuals and contributors engaged directly by Fairfax.

Our photographic needs across all platforms continue to be commissioned by editorial however most assignments will be facilitated by Getty photographers for our publications. Fairfax retains the copyright in the photos and they will be for Fairfax’s exclusive use.

The changes we are proposing are similar to the more progressive and efficient models being used by other media organisations around the world.

Fairfax has a long relationship with Getty, which is an award-winning global provider of photographic and other media services across all publishing platforms. We already make extensive use of Getty photographers for our sport and digital requirements.

Under the new arrangements, Matt Martel will take on the role of Executive Editor - Photography and Presentation, with oversight of photography, design, graphics and illustration.

Editorial management will be providing Editorial Production, Life Media and Photographic with more detail about the proposed changes and any resultant redundancy program. Briefings and feedback sessions will be held with these teams as part of our consultation process.

We have already been in contact with the MEAA about these proposed changes.

We anticipate being in a position to advise on next steps by 14 May 2014.

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  • Media
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  • StopPress Team
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