Coronavirus: Newsquest staff cuts a 'kick in the teeth'

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image captionNewsquest will put a number of staff on leave under the UK government's coronavirus job retention scheme

A newspaper group which prints eight Welsh titles has announced a number of cuts which will affect staff.

Newsquest will put a number of staff on leave under the UK government's coronavirus job retention scheme, and all staff will see a pay cut.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the decision was a "real kick in the teeth" for reporters on titles such as the daily South Wales Argus.

Newsquest said it had been hit by a "perfect storm".

Newsquest also owns a number of Welsh regional papers including the Western Telegraph, the Free Press series, the Tivyside Advertiser, the Penarth Times and the Barry & District News.

Staff furloughed under the scheme will be paid 80% of their salary by the government.

The newspaper group has announced a 15% wage cut on those earning more than £18,000.

Senior managers will be required to take two weeks of unpaid leave, and the company said is is still pursuing further measures.

"Newsquest's harsh and knee-jerk response came without warning to staff struggling with their important work in incredibly difficult circumstances," said Chris Morley, Newsquest NUJ national coordinator.

Staff were hit with the news at a time when there is a lot of financial insecurity among families due to coronavirus, according to Fed Bedendo of the NUJ's Newsquest chapel.

"At a time when we are working harder than ever to keep the public informed and we are demonstrating how vital local journalism is, this comes as a real kick in the teeth," she said.

"Staff are working from home, facing extra expenses for electricity and heating bills to keep themselves and their families safe and some of us already face hardship due to other household members losing trade due to the coronavirus."

Newsquest said it had "prioritised local news and journalism" and cuts had mainly affected commercial staff.

Managing director for Wales, Hereford and Somerset, Hussain Bayoomi, described the current situation as a "perfect storm" and added only four journalists had been affected by the changes in Wales.

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