Staff at the News Letter and other Northern Ireland titles of publisher JPI Media are facing a pay cut and temporary leave as part of group-wide cost reductions.
JPI Media, which owns 12 local papers, including the Lurgan Mail and Newtownabbey Times, as well as the News Letter, said the move followed a fall in advertising.
As well as temporary pay cuts, around 350 staff across the UK — including some sales staff in Northern Ireland — will be temporarily laid-off on a furlough scheme for around two months.
The group’s 50 or so editorial staff here will not be asked to go on furlough leave but will face pay cuts. However, production of the titles will continue.
Staff who continue working and earn less than £18,000 a year will not face a pay cut at all, but those earning between £18,000 and £40,000 face a 10% cut on the amount of earnings over £18,000. Those earning over £40,000 will see a 15% cut. Pay rises due in April are also being deferred.
But pay cuts to those on furlough leave will be steeper, while directors and chief executive David King will face a cut of 20% on the whole of their salaries.
A company spokesman said that the pandemic “is putting immense pressure on businesses and public services in Northern Ireland”. He added: “Some local media businesses have even temporarily stopped trading.
“The local and regional newspaper industry has seen a sudden and steep reduction in advertising order volumes which is having a very significant impact on our revenues in Northern Ireland and across the group. In addition, newspaper circulation revenues have been adversely hit by store closures and lockdown restrictions. Our print contract customers are similarly affected.
“To support the business and safeguard jobs during this uncertain period we need to make difficult decisions to control costs and preserve cash.
“Whilst we are addressing all costs in the business and looking for savings wherever we can, our staff costs are the biggest single component of our cost base and regrettably we do need to make savings in this area.”
JPI Media is the latest publisher to ask staff to take a pay cut, or temporary leave, after Impartial Reporter owner Newsquest made a similar move last week.
Staff members of Newsquest are to hold a meeting with trade union the NUJ today.
The Spectator Group has also announced that it has ceased publication temporarily of the Co Down Spectator and two other titles.