Home Outsourcing Fairfax threatens journos, making court bid to sort out strike

Fairfax threatens journos, making court bid to sort out strike

Fairfax Media editorial director Sean Aylmer has threatened journalists with repercussions for going on an unauthorised seven-day strike after Wednesday's announcement that a quarter of the journalistic staff would be cut to effect savings of $30 million.

The company is reported to be approaching the Fair Work Commission to get the strike declared illegal and force the journalists back to work. Staff representatives have indicated that they will not defy the Commission if it orders them back to work.

The strike comes just ahead of next Tuesday's federal budget, one of the biggest days for media in Australia.

Aylmer said in the email that after authorised stop-work meetings, "some editorial staff in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth and Brisbane have taken industrial action by not returning to work. This is unlawful industrial action".

The Age investigations editor Michael Bachelard told iTWire that there would be no backing down unless concessions were made.

A portion of the email sent to journalists by Sean Aylmer.

A portion of the email sent to journalists by Sean Aylmer.

"We want a reassessment of the depth of the cut, no forced redundancies, management to take a 25% pay cut and more time for those wanting to go voluntarily to consider their options," Bachelard, a former head of The Age house committee (in-house union) said in response to queries.

He confirmed that emails spelling out the threatening details of Australian industrial law were already circulating.

The Age website at 9am on Thursday.

The Age website sports a 12-hour-old story as its main picture at 9am on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Aylmer told staff that the company was seeking the reduction of the equivalent of up to 125 full-time equivalents, of which about 10 have already left after the management first proposed the idea last month.

Aylmer said $30 million in savings were being pursued by cutting down on contributor payments, third-party deals, casuals and full-time and part-time staff. He said the voluntary redundancy appications would have to be made by 10 May, with decisions to be made on 12 May.

With staff out on a seven-day strike, the Age and SMH websites, two of the foremost sites for Australian news, have a stale appearance today. Fairfax sources said that the situation would get worse if the strike dragged on.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.