The journalists’ union has issued a stark warning over a potential merger between Newsquest and JPI Media, saying the deal could harm the public interest and put jobs at risk.
Newsquest, which owns a string of titles including the Oxford Mail and Brighton’s Argus, has reportedly taken pole position in the race to snap up JPI after outbidding rival Reach.
JPI, formerly known as Johnston Press, owns titles including the i newspaper and the Yorkshire Post.
However, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) today warned the deal, first reported by the Guardian, posed a risk to both employees and the public.
The union warned that Newsquest had a track record of “aggressively stripping out” costs – including by laying off staff – and reducing terms and conditions for employees.
While the US-owned publisher has steered clear of major deals in recent years, it has snapped up a string of small media groups such as Romanes in Scotland and NWN Media in Wales.
“In all of these takeovers, our members have typically suffered heavy job losses and their pay and conditions have been affected, so we have understandable concerns about what our members might face if Newsquest is successful in acquiring JPI Media,” said NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet.
The union warned that a takeover could pose various regulatory issues around competition and called for a buyer that was willing to invest in JPI’s core business of news.
“That is why we are calling on all interested bidders as a minimum to declare a moratorium of at least two years on compulsory jobs losses, the honouring of all existing terms and conditions and maintenance of effective collective bargaining arrangements,” Stanistreet said.
Daily Mirror publisher Reach has confirmed it is bidding for JPI’s assets, while Daily Mail and General Trust and Fleet Street veteran David Montgomery have also been slated as potential suitors.
The NUJ has previously raised concerns about Reach’s bid for JPI, branding its bid “alarming”.
“We would be willing to sit down and talk to any new owner about their plans to stabilise and grow this business for the benefit of local communities who desperately need access to quality journalism like never before,” the union boss added.
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