Newsquest, which publishes about 200 brands including the Northern Echo, Lancashire Telegraph and Carlisle News and Star, is placing a “significant number” of its staff on enforced leave and cutting the wages of those who remain in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The publisher will pay 80% of the total salary of anyone put on ‘furlough’, with advertising personnel mainly affected and about 10% of editorial staff.
Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker also announced that all staff not on forced leave would face a 15% wage cut on the amount they earn above £18,000 from 1st April, including senior managers and part-time employees.
Senior managers have been told to take two weeks of unpaid leave, although editors are largely exempt. Faure Walker said his own salary would be affected.
In an email to staff, Faure Walker said: “As you are all aware, the coronavirus is having a profound impact on day-to-day living and business activity across the UK and across the world. Our first steps have been focused on keeping our employees as safe as possible, moving to remote working, social distancing and associated policies throughout the business.
“We now have to turn our attention to the economic impact on our business. Despite the sterling efforts of our teams, we are seeing very significant declines in our revenue, particularly from advertising, as many of our customers cancel or put their plans on hold.
“Standing still is therefore not an option. In order to ensure that we weather this storm, we are taking a number of decisive actions that will impact all of us.
“We do not take these actions lightly, but they will ensure that we come out strong on the other side of this, and minimise wider job losses. I appreciate that these actions are unsettling, but we believe they are necessary to cope with this extraordinary situation.
“We will get through this and with your help, come out stronger on the other side.”
Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ national coordinator, said: “Clearly there are massive changes around us brought on by the crisis enveloping the world as a result of Covid-19.
“But Newsquest’s harsh and knee-jerk response came without warning to staff struggling with their important work in incredibly difficult circumstances. It feels very much like the company is out of step with the spirit of the times.”