Express to cut more than 70 jobs; NI stays at Wapping

Chief football writer Harry Harris’s departure from the Daily Express, as reported by last week, will not be the last.

Nearly 70 jobs are to go at Express Newspapers, the management announced today. In a letter from group managing editor Ian Parrott, staff were told that 36 staff and 33 casual jobs face the axe when an editorial system called Woodwing is put in place to reduce costs at the Richard Desmond-owned newspapers.

The Express announcement follows recent moves at the Telegraph Group to end the use of casual staff altogether at Victoria, although 40 new staff posts – widely believed to be junior, lower-salaried
posts, available to work across daily, Sunday and internet platforms – are to be created.

“The reason for these changes is that it is imperative for the business that substantial cost savings are made,” Parrott wrote. “This is the only way we can maintain a viable business able to cope with the problems of the national economy and the credit crunch and its continuing effect on us; the substantial drop in our advertising revenues and the continuing drop in our circulation figures.”

According to insiders, the plan could see reporters input copy directly on to pages. It will see Express Newspapers terminate the contracts of more than half the two papers’ permanent staff sub-editors. In addition to the 36 staff subs to leave by the end of the year, so too will 33 long-term regular casual subs and 17 other casuals.

Permanent staff are expected to be offered three weeks’ salary for every year of service, plus notice pay, or 20 weeks’ minimum pay, plus notice, whichever is the greater. This will be capped at £30,000. Long-term casuals are understood to have been offered two weeks’ pay plus a notice period of four weeks.

Staff at Express Newspapers proprietor Richard Desmond’s other national papers, the Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday, are not affected, nor are employees at the company’s subbing centre at Broughton in the north-west and the group’s office in Glasgow.

A meeting between management and the NUJ chapel is set for 4pm today. On the agenda is a move to a five-day rolling shift operation.

“What’s really disturbing is that for them to be so precise about these numbers and to have this system to be prepared to be installed means they must have been planning it for some time,” Barry Fitzpatrick, newspaper national organiser at the NUJ, told the Press Gazette.

Roy Greenslade on Express owner Richard Desmond:

“I can say unhesitatingly that Desmond is the worst national newspaper publisher in my lifetime, and that includes such characters as Robert Maxwell, Victor Matthews, Lord Stevens, Clive Hollick and Clive Thornton. Desmond doesn’t care for his papers. He doesn’t care about journalism.”

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â–  News International has abandoned plans to sell its Wapping site and instead will be bringing in staff from other News Corporation companies Dow Jones, Harper Collins, MySpace and 20th Century Fox to the east London site.

The Sun, News of the World, Times and Sunday Times have been published at the location since 1986, when the newspapers fled Fleet Street for the green-field site and applied controversial new tech arrangements, locking out many of the titles’ compositers and printers.

News International was thought to be planning a move of editorial offices to Waterloo. Earlier this year the company ended 22 years of printing at Wapping when it opened its £187 million Broxbourne printing plant in Hertfordshire.

The decision not to re-locate, believed to be connected with the recent plunge in property values, will dismay many staff at Wapping, which after more than 20 years still lacks the convenient transport links of Victoria or Derry Street, or the shops, bars and restaurants close to other newspaper offices.

James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of Europe and Asia at News Corporation, said: “”Wapping is not only important as a physical site, but also it is a symbol of how bold individuals, working together, can advance the world of media and thereby contribute to life in Britain.

“Throughout our history, News Corporation has challenged conventions and we hope this building will provide benefits to the business that can’t be found in traditional commercial real estate.”

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