20 November 2008

Bad Times for The Irish Times

It has emerged that The Irish Times is urgently seeking 30 redundancies before Christmas in a bid to reduce the overall costs at the national newspaper, which is one of the three daily broadsheets in Ireland and also a paper of record.

The company's management held briefings with members of staff yesterday morning, to outline a number of cost saving measures, including a pay freeze, a strict ban of bonuses and significant changes to the company's pension arrangements.

Staff who attended this briefing were told that the company is forecasting "possible operating losses of up to € 13 million next year". They were also told that there may be 30 further redundancies in 2009.

More briefings were held yesterday afternoon and staff were told that "revenue from property advertising has fallen by 50% since last year", while "recruitment advertising is down 20%".
However, the staff members were not told which departments would be affected by the 30 redundancies that are being sought immediately.

Management told the briefing that the people involved would be spoken to individually over the next seven to ten days. This kind of secrecy and the attempt to pitch individual staff members against each other and make them fight for being retained is very typical for the stiff and rather old-fashioned culture inside The Irish Times.

An unspecified number of casual staff and freelancers are also to be let go.

It is understood that all aspects of employment terms and conditions will be scrutinised - including the 'nine day fortnight' and the six weeks annual holiday entitlement, as well as the paper's expenses regime.

The management will not be receiving bonuses, and executive terms and conditions will also be examined. This at least seems fair, as management is mainly responsible for the situation of the company.

Staff sources who attended the meetings said that management described current terms and conditions as "relics from another era".
So it appears that after a period of exuberance and uncontrolled splendour these are now also bad times for The Irish Times.

Strangely enough the company had no problems wasting a good deal of money on a new opinion poll regarding a hypothetical second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which was published on Monday. (see my entry of November 17th)

If the situation is really as dire as the management suggests, maybe they should start with their staff redundancies right at the top and give editor Geraldine Kennedy the chance to spend more time with her family. She presided over the decline of the paper and did obviously not take provisions for a rainy day when the going was good.
Then the senior management should sack itself instead of pushing hard-working journalists into the dole queue.

With good right we are demanding a change of management from the banks who created our current financial crisis. And what is right for them is equally proper for our big newspapers, who fuelled the boom and spending spree of the past ten years with countless 'lifestyle' articles.

This is the start of a new era, and we should begin the long and slow march to recovery with new people leading the way.

The Emerald Islander

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