Journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have gone on strike for a week after Fairfax Media announced it would cut about 25 per cent of the jobs at its major Australian newspapers.
The seven-day strike starting on Wednesday afternoon means the stoppage will potentially run into Tuesday’s federal budget.
“We are taking this action today because we are shocked and appalled at the decision that management has taken,” Herald journalist Sean Nicholls said in Sydney.
“The scale of these cuts is unprecedented in Fairfax history.”
Nicholls said the strike “potentially covers the federal budget next Tuesday”.
He said one in four employees in every metropolitan newsroom was to be axed and called on management to have a “serious rethink”.
Court reporters walked out of courtrooms on Wednesday afternoon following the vote.
“Fairfax journo at Bell/Landry case whispers to person sitting next to her ‘we are on strike’, then stands and excuses herself from the court,” Nine Network reporter Tom Steinfort tweeted from Sydney.
The Age’s crime writer Tom Cowie tweeted: “The Age newsroom just voted to strike for a week #fairgofairfax” while Herald reporter Lisa Visentin noted the strike “takes us out of the federal budget” in Canberra.
Fairfax is cutting costs by $30 million in the face of declining advertising and circulations, and told staff on Wednesday it is looking to lose 125 staff from the newsrooms of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today.
“While we will be looking across all parts of the newsroom, at the end of the redundancy program we expect there will be significantly fewer editorial management, video, presentation and section writer roles,” the company said in an internal note.
Fairfax axed 120 editorial jobs from its newsrooms in Sydney and Melbourne a year ago in an earlier cost-cutting exercise and outlined its latest target last month.
It called it an effort to secure the titles’ future but only revealed the details on Wednesday.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union for journalists, slammed the move, saying it was “appalled” by the decision which would weaken Fairfax’s business.