70 jobs to go at Fairfax Media

Seventy jobs cuts and a possible move to a nine-day fortnight in some of its operations are being proposed by Fairfax Media as it continues to trim its New Zealand operations.

Fairfax announced today that about 70 pre-press and advertising production jobs from a pool of 218 would be shed as the company moves production into four regional hubs.

The affected staff create and manage advertising material published in newspapers and are currently based at all Fairfax publishing sites throughout the country.

Fairfax owns The Dominion Post and The Press newspapers, and the websites stuff.co.nz and TradeMe, as well as a number of regional newspapers such as the Waikato Times, Nelson Mail and the Southland Times.

The move follows the lead of a consolidation of sub-editors from the company's papers last year as the result of Fairfax adopting the Genera publishing system for all its newspapers.

The move was due to be completed at the end of August, said Fairfax NZ chief executive Joan Withers.

She refuted any suggestion that the latest cuts would impact on Fairfax's publications and news content.

"We are investing more in the front end of journalism and absolutely committed to the quality of our editorial product.

"But as in any business we are accountable to our shareholders, we are accountable to advertising customers and our readers and we feel those responsibilities very keenly."

She said Fairfax was open and honest about the possible extent of job losses.

The move would "consolidate and streamline our production workflow, processes and workforce in a way that delivers lower cost, higher productivity and better quality".

Ms Withers said the pre-press project would have been initiated regardless of the economic conditions.

Media companies around the world needed to have a competitive cost structure, she said.

Along with the job cuts, the company was also looking at further cost-cutting measures including the possibility of signing up for the Government's nine-day working fortnight.

While that proposal was only in the discussion stage, it would not apply to all operations.

"Wherever we possibly can we are preserving jobs. That's our first proposition." Meanwhile, billing and accounts systems were currently being upgraded, and improvements made to the subscriptions service.

The company will discuss the redundancies with staff over the next fortnight and ask for expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy.

There will be opportunities to remain at local sites or be redeployed to the newly formed pre-press hubs in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

"This is a difficult time for affected staff and we will be doing our very best to support them through it," Ms Withers said.

Fairfax last year shed hundreds of jobs in its Australian operations in a move it said would save the company tens of millions of dollars.

The company declined to say today how much the latest measures were expected to save.

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