`Telegraph' to make 90 journalists redundant

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The Independent Online
THE DAILY and Sunday Telegraph are facing strike action after announcing 90 journalists are to lose their jobs in the biggest national newspaper cull since Richard Desmond took over Express Newspapers four years ago.

The National Union of Journalists said it "deplored" the cuts and warned that unless they were withdrawn by midday on Monday it would consider holding a ballot on industrial action. On top of the 17 per cent reduction in the two papers' editorial staff, there could be a further 200 job cuts across the company. The scale of the cuts, which follow the take- over of the Telegraph group by the Barclay brothers last year, left staff "pretty glum" and using "gallows humour," according to one insider.

The savings will be invested in pounds 150m production facilities and extra pages to give the titles an edge in an increasingly competitive newspaper market.

The Telegraph's new management, led by the former Associated Newspapers chief Murdoch MacLennan, believes the titles need to be overhauled to iron out inefficiencies that crept in under the ownership of Conrad Black. But journalists and union representatives have reacted angrily, in particular to the way in which the announcement was handled.

Staff received letters from Mr MacLennan on Thursday morning, saying the company wanted to make about 90 journalists redundant. He wrote: "Journalists are the lifeblood of any newspaper and maintaining the quality of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph for our readers is vital.

"However, action to improve our production capability and secure our titles against the competition is also vital. That is why the measures of the kind we anticipate have the complete support of our editors."

John Carey, father of the National Union of Journalists chapel at the titles, said: "We're appalled by it and not just by the numbers being suggested, but also by the way we have been told." He said he had met the editorial director, Kim Fletcher, on Tuesday to discuss proposed redundancies in production and was given an assurance that the company had "no detailed plans for editorial job cuts".

At an emergency chapel meeting yesterday, the NUJ said the cuts were "guaranteed to seriously undermine the journalistic quality of the Telegraph titles." One Sunday Telegraph journalist said: "With a tabloid you can get away with this sort of thing but quality newspaper readers are more discerning. They expect more. You can't do it on the cheap. Lots of departments are already down to bare bones."

It has not yet been decided where the jobs will be cut from. Over the next few weeks, executives will meet department heads to discuss how their sections could be run more efficiently. The company will also formally consult journalists and their representatives.

Telegraph bosses said they would be offering "generous" terms of redundancy, including four weeks' pay for each complete year of service up to a maximum of 52 weeks. A spokeswoman for the titles said: "We are doing what other newspaper organisations have already done."