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NUJ 'deeply concerned' over 'enhanced' Johnston Press voluntary redundancy programme

The NUJ has described the opening of an "enhanced" group-wide voluntary redundancy programme at Johnston Press as “deeply concerning”.

Jobs: The NUJ is "deeply concerned" about the latest development

The union said the root cause of the company’s crisis had to be tackled and called on banks to review “draconian” loan terms.

Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield issued a statement on Monday announcing the redundancy programme would offer staff “enhanced” terms to leave the company.

Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: “Already there are serious issues over workload and the pace at which digital change is being imposed. Revenue migration to digital remains disappointing and seems to be driven by a mistaken belief that it will come right in the end.

“The root cause of this crisis is the scale of the group's indebtedness and the draconian terms under which the banks including RBS have structured the loans.

“Given the responsibility that the banks have for the loans it is time that the terms were reviewed so that instead of strangling the company the money can be used to restore the trading performance and allow for real growth.”

The statement from Johnston Press said the decision was necessary to put the company in a position to grow following “healthier” balance sheets announced in August.

"To ensure we are in a solid position for continued growth we need to be constantly reviewing our business structure and rescaling where appropriate," said Highfield.

"We have already taken many prudent measures to ensure we hit our financial targets and we will continue to explore different options for our employees to consider."

The company reported digital revenue growth of 13.3 per cent to £11.6m and an increase in operation profit of 4.3 per cent to £28.6m. However, ad revenue was down by 13.6 per cent and circulation dipped by 0.7 per cent.

There have been significant job losses at the publisher in recent years and restructuring across the board. Nearly a quarter of the workforce was laid off between 2011 and 2012.

It’s understood the voluntary redundancy programme will not apply to employees bringing in advertising revenue or those working in digital.

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