Trinity Mirror has defended the launch of a home-working “pilot” that will see journalists from the Crewe Chronicle forced to work from home.
The Chronicle’s eight staff will have to base themselves at home when the weekly’s office closes in May.
Alastair Machray, editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror North West, informed staff of the plan yesterday and claimed it was intended to save jobs.
And a statement from the publisher has added that the move will remove “costly infrastructure” while investing “in journalism not bricks and mortar”.
It said: “This is a pilot to evaluate how working differently, and utilising available technology can enable us to control costs without reducing the number of journalists we employ.
“We’re harnessing the benefits of mobile technology to allow reporters to work in local markets and remove costly infrastructure. We want to invest in journalism not bricks and mortar.”
The move has however drawn fierce criticism from the National Union of Journalists, which believes the experiment will soon be “rolled out to other Trinity Mirror locations”.
A statement from the union said: “The eight members of staff at the Crewe Chronicle will now have to turn their box room or kitchen table into their office.
“The Trinity Mirror Cheshire chapel has objected on professional grounds and also on how it will affect the personal working conditions of members.
“The chapel believes a newspaper should have a physical presence in the heart of the community it serves. It is also concerned that journalists will become isolated and will not benefit from the teamwork that results from working alongside colleagues in an office. Younger members of staff particularly benefit from working with more experienced colleagues.
“The plan would be impractical for staff who have young children at home or have a room in a shared house. Paradoxically, when staff previously asked if they could work from home for specific reasons, their requests were turned down. Now they are being told they will have to turn their homes – or their parents’ homes – into their office.
“The chapel said it would mean contracts of employment would have to be significantly changed to cover the extra costs staff incur and for the company to provide suitable and safe individual working environments.”
Chris Morley, Northern & Midlands organiser, accused Trinity of trying to “ram through a very significant change for the way journalists work”.
According to the latest ABC figures, the Chronicle’s average weekly circulation dipped 6.8% to 11,424 in 2013.