After the announcement that 550 jobs would be cut by Fairfax Media in Australia and New Zealand on August 26th, journalists at The Age (Melbourne, Australia) and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers have decided to go on strike until Monday. A Fairfax spokeswoman announced that both papers would come out on Friday, but refused to comment on whether weekend papers would be affected.
Fairfax, which owns many of the highest circulation newspapers in both countries, increased its profit by 46.8% in the year to June 2008, to AU$386.9 million, but is claiming it needs to reduce costs to increase profits even further. Of the jobs to go, 160 have been announced for New Zealand (100 further redundancies, and non-replacement of 60 staff who had recently left or been made redundant) with the rest across the Australian Fairfax stable.
“This was a motion that arose spontaneously from the floor of the meeting because people are angry at the way the company has treated them both in terms of Enterprise Agreement negotiations and also the redundancy announcements,” said Michael Bachelard, a senior journalist at The Age.
“Age staff are passionate about their masthead and their readers, and are disappointed that the managers of the company appear willing to sacrifice quality journalism for the sake of the bottom line.”
An email to all Fairfax staff from the CEO announcing the job cuts and restructuring was leaked to The Australian, a competitor to the Fairfax papers.
Brief update (Fri 29th):
Wearing t-shirts reading “Fair Go Fairfax” and “Don’t Discount Journalism”, about 80 Fairfax journalists picketed the offices at Pyrmont in central Sydney.Additional security surrounded the building, a move some picketers jokingly dubbed Fairfax’s “ring of steel”.
Earlier today, prominent columnist Mike Carlton was sacked after refusing to cross the picket line to write his weekly column for the Herald’s Saturday edition.