Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Journalists at Fairfax Media (Australia) vote to go on a snap 36-hour strike over outsourcing production positions

Journalists have called a snap 36-hour strike at the Fairfax Media properties in Australia after the company announced that it would be eliminating 66 positions at a group of its newspapers. Those editorial production jobs would, according to the Farifax Media plan, be outsourced to its regional newspapers in New Zealand.

The journalists who work at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Financial Review, The Illawarra Mercury and the Newcastle Herald voted to take the labor action after a vote this afternoon Australia time.

"We want them to know that outsourcing journalists does not allow us to provide the dynamic journalism that the digital future requires," Marcus Strom, of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Fairfax Sydney House Committee, said in a report from ABC News (Australia).

Like the Advance and Postmedia newspaper chains in North America, there has also been speculation that the Fairfax Media chain would cut some weekday editions.

The Australian media company has a long history, dating back to the purchase of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1841 by John Fairfax. Recently, however, the family had lost control of the media group, and now mining billionaire Gina Reinhart is the largest shareholder, owning a 13-14 percent stake in the company. Just yesterday Reinhart called on the company to make major changes.

"The articulation of the strategy to revive the ailing Fairfax resides with the board and management of Fairfax and the chairman needs to urgently address this in the interests of all shareholders, rather than merely hoping for improvements in circulation, revenue and share price or perhaps trying to blame... industry conditions," Reinhart is quoted as telling the board.

Like other media companies, Fairfax Media has blamed the layoffs on a move from print to digital. "Fairfax Media is on a journey from a predominantly print business to a predominantly digital business," Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said earlier this year. While Farifax has seen its profits tumble, it still reported a first-half profit of $96.7 million (AUS) earlier this year.