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Journalists at Fairfax Media have gone on a 36-hour strike over job outsourcing to New Zealand. Fairfax Media is the second largest publishing company in Australia, and is accused of making “easy instead of smart” decisions about cost-cutting.
This strike affects journalist staff in both print and online sections of several papers including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Sunday Age, The Sun Herald, Newcastle Herald, and Wollongong’s Ilawarra Mercury.
The strike began at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening with staff walking out after hundreds of journalists met with media union officials from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) that same day.
The cost-cutting, outsourcing plan is causing fear in the journalists for their job safety and will result in 66 jobs lost due to the relocation of the editorial staff.
Rallies were held May 31 in Australia by the striking journalists and the MEAA. Louise Connor, MEAA Victorian secretary, stood outside Fairfax’s Melbourne offices on Thursday with around 100 journalists.
“Our grave concern is that this company makes the easy decisions to cut costs instead of making the smart decisions to move this company into the new era,” Ms. Connor told reporters.
“This is a very dangerous step for Fairfax to be taking. There has been no experience in Australia of companies making the decision to offshore such a central part of the newspaper and this can only destroy the vital nexus between the newsroom and the community. Sub-editors are journalists and the heart of the newsroom.
They should always be embedded in the community to enable the newspaper to tell the local story accurately.” said Chris Warren, MEAA federal secretary. The MEAA said the outsourcing is just Fairfax’s way to finding cheap cuts in journalism.
The striking journalists risk the chance of being fined. To them, it is definitely worth it.
“We don’t think we’ll be fined. We understand the risk that we took in walking out, but there’s frustration at the decision to outsource jobs,” said Ben Schneiders, a journalist at The Age.
Fairfax Media management has expressed disappointment at the journalists’ strike action, but says the changes will put the company in a better position to take advantage of the numerous opportunities in digital media.
Senior staff and sub-editors from the involved newspapers are going to negotiate with Fairfax management over the next few days to find an alternative solution, the MEAA says.
The strike is due to end Friday morning.