INM criticised over announcement of plans for 31 redundancies

‘It is difficult to conceive of further reductions in staffing level,’ says NUJ head

Independent House on Talbot Street, Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

Independent House on Talbot Street, Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The National Union of Journalists has expressed “grave concern” at the news that Independent News & Media plans to implement 31 redundancies at the company.

INM staff were angered on Thursday at the manner in which news of a compulsory redundancy programme was handled by the company.

The media company called more than 300 staff based in its office on Talbot Street in Dublin to the national convention centre to outline details of a new strategy.

Group chief executive Michael Doorly outlined the strategy at the meeting in a presentation to staff. However, staff were not allowed to ask questions about the redundancy plan, which was reported by The Irish Times last week.

Sources who were at the meeting said employees were told to return to their desks after the meeting and await emails that would advise them when department meetings would be held.

A source, who asked not to be named, said there was now “palpable fear” in the company as it embarked on another process of slashing its workforce.

Drastic cuts

The NUJ criticised INM for the manner of its communication with staff. “There have already been drastic cuts within editorial departments, and it is difficult to conceive of further reductions in staffing levels. NUJ members are concerned that the proposed cuts will undermine the ability of staff to do their job,” said the NUJ’s Irish secretary, Séamus Dooley.

“Today’s announcement must be seen against the devastating impact of recent revelations about unacceptable behaviour at the highest level within INM and corporate shenanigans which have not served the company or its employees well.”

INM is being investigated by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into a data breach at the company. High Court inspectors were subsequently appointed. The Central Bank and the Data Protection Commission are also investigating potential issues.

Former chief executive Robert Pitt made a whistleblower complaint to the ODCE about the alleged conduct of former chairman Leslie Buckley. Chief financial officer Ryan Preston made a similar protected internal disclosure that was supportive of Mr Pitt’s position. Mr Preston is due to leave INM at the end of January.

Redundancies

The redundancies at INM will involve 23 editorial staff and eight employees on the commercial side of the business leaving the group. In some cases employees will have to reapply for their existing role.

A spokesman for INM said the group was investing about €5 million in a strategy overhaul that would see it beef up its video offering. He added that the meeting with staff was seen by the company as the best way to handle the redundancies and that, although staff couldn’t ask questions at the meeting, they were permitted to ask questions to their department heads when they returned to their office.

INM, which counts businessman Denis O’Brien as its single largest shareholder, publishes the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, the Evening Herald, Sunday World and Belfast Telegraph titles, among others. It also has a 50 per cent holding in the Irish Daily Star.

Between 2014 and 2017 it recorded restructuring costs of more than €9 million as a result of several redundancy schemes, according to figures contained in its annual reports.

“Current management face a daunting task in seeking to restore the confidence of shareholders, readers and employees,” Mr Dooley said, adding that the provision of adequate editorial resources was “key to that challenge”.