Reach under fire for cuts to editorial roles, as publisher makes 4% pay increase offer for lowest paid staff

Dismay has been voiced about the UK’s largest commercial, national and regional news publisher's proposed cuts to editorial roles.

It was reported this week that Reach has offered staff earning less than £60,000 a 4 percent pay rise. The offer follows last week’s announcement that redundancies would need to be made in order to respond to a “combination of unprecedented cost inflation, a challenged consumer economy and an industry-wide decline in open-market advertising yields.”

According to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), 420 journalists are at risk of losing their jobs, in order for Reach to make 192 job cuts.

In January, the employer made a round of redundancies, which saw around 80 members of staff lose their job.

The Press Gazette believes Reach will continue to employ round 1,200 local and regional journalists following the planned redundancies. At the end of 2022, the news publisher had 2,862 employed journalists, including on its national titles – the Mirror, Express and Star.

On March 17, journalists passed a vote of no confidence in Reach executives after it was announced the employer was planning to cut 192 editorial roles. The NUJ said representatives from across Reach passed the motion of no confidence in Jim Mullen, executive chief officer at Reach, as well as the publisher’s senior management team.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said that members and reps were “devastated and angry at the decision to cut such a huge number of jobs.”

“In some cases, half of certain teams are going and in others, people are not clear about the choices being made.

“The uncertainty created for everyone within the business and the impact for those who may be left behind is affecting everybody, whether they are at risk or not.

“For those who have just spent recent months at risk and then thought their job was secure, to now be told their livelihood is once again at risk and that they are back in the same stressful place is horrendous,” Davison continued.

The NUJ national organiser said that there is a lack of hope and confidence in the decisions being made and about the direction of travel at the company.

“NUJ reps are committed to standing up for local journalism and to showing solidarity with one another in dealing with these cuts. The union continues to support members, including those involved in the latest round of redundancies,” she added.

With regional titles set to bear the brunt of the cuts, local reporters have been voicing their dismay. It has been reported that in Gloucestershire, just two staff reporters for Reach will be covering the region under the latest proposed cutbacks. In February, Gloucestershire Live, which is operated by Reach, made one of its five staff reporters redundant and there are now plans to shed another two staff reporters. 

One Gloucestershire-based journalist said: “It’s just unbelievable. I’ve totally lost faith in the company, as we all have.

“What Reach has done to local journalism in the UK is killing it.”

In March 2022, it was reported that Jim Mullen received an annual pay package worth £4m. At the time, the NUJ accused Reach of ‘widening inequality within the company.’

Chris Morley, Reach NUJ national coordinator, had said:

“After admittedly tightening their belts a couple of notches in 2020, our members are astonished that the two top executives in Reach pulled in combined renumeration of nearly £7.5m between them last year.

“According to the latest annual report, Jim Millen’s remuneration was equal to that of 117 of his lower paid staff – disappointingly, at a strike, massively widening inequality within the company.”

In 2022, Reach’s full-year revenue fell by 2.3 percent. At the start of this year, the company said “decisive action” was necessary because of the current economic headwinds including “advertising weakness and prolonged cost inflation”, which it expects to continue in 2023.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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