Real estate agent-owned Fairfax-MMP joint venture shrinks

Property ObserverApril 30, 20130 min read

There are looming redundancies inside Fairfax’s Victorian joint venture Metro Media Publishing as the company moves to rein in costs on struggling community mastheads formerly controlled by the ailing media giant.

Staff from Metro Media’s central office, located in South Melbourne, are being called in for meetings to discuss the changes, involving relocations, redundancies and reductions in working hours. Over 20 staff out of 120 are said to be affected, with the changes focused on some unprofitable publications within the 11-masthead central group.

A senior MMP source told Crikey that more job losses were to come at the Dandenong-based east group, identified by CEO Antony Catalano last year as problem area for the merged real estate agent-owned business, for which Fairfax paid $35 million in cash and $35 million in assets for a 50% stake in December 2011.

Catalano confirmed to Crikey that eight positions would be made redundant in the central office: “There are big challenges to the business we inherited. We’ve worked for nearly 12 months to try and turn around some of the businesses that were loss makers as part of the deal. But the reality is that some of them aren’t fixable. And that means we have to make some tough decisions. We never take things lightly when we’re dealing with individual staff and careers and we’re trying to tread carefully. But if we ignore this the rest of the business will suffer.”

Central titles include the Boroondara and Stonnington Review Locals and the profitable Weekly Review glossies spread throughout Melbourne’s affluent inner suburbs.

The Fairfax-MMP joint venture was finally bedded down last May following months of to-ing and fro-ing over the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval process. Crikey understands that in its submissions to the ACCC, Fairfax claimed its entire Fairfax Community Network of 33 mastheads was on the verge of being shut down with job losses in the range of 300 to 400 if the merger didn’t proceed.

Loss-making mastheads in the east grouping, which employs a total of 80 staff, are currently being examined for savings, however a decision on their future?—?which could include masthead closures?—?is yet to be made. East titles are Casey Weekly, Casey Weekly Cranbourne, The Dandenong Journal,Frankston Weekly, Knox Weekly, Monash Weekly, Maroondah & Yarra Ranges Weekly and the Peninsula Weekly.

After the Fairfax deal was done, the former FCN titles were relaunched on July 25 last year. The Melbourne Weekly, Melbourne Weekly Port Philip andMelbourne Weekly Bayside were shuttered to make way for four “Review Locals”, including the Review Local Port Phillip and Review Local Bayside, which both closed earlier this year. Over the last 12 months, MMP management discovered many titles were bleeding serious revenue to News Limited’s Leader titles and those of Paul Thomas’ Star News Group. They have remained deeply in the red.

Last October, 29 staff were made redundant from some titles in the group, with some of the work outsourced to media labour hire firm The Media Gang.

An email sent by journos’ union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance secretary Louise Connor obtained by Crikey advises staff to sit tight and listen to what the company has to say. The meeting referred to will now take place tomorrow.

URGENT: Changes at Central, Union Meeting Today
30.04.2013
Dear Alliance Members and MMP Employees,

We understand that MMP management are calling individual editorial staff from the Central office into meetings today to discuss your employment arrangements.

These changes include relocation of some employees to other offices, redundancies and changes to working hours for Central (South Melbourne) staff.

There will be an Alliance meeting at your office this afternoon to discuss the changes. Meeting is upstairs at ‘Honey’ 345 Clarendon Street at 3pm.

We are also meeting with management tomorrow morning to commence negotiations for a new collective agreement. We can raise any issues you have with these changes at that meeting.

The collective agreement has clauses dealing with your rights in times of major change. This includes sufficient time to consider management’s proposal and the right of staff through the Alliance to propose alternatives.

Therefore, you do not have to agree immediately to any offer or proposal put to you in these meetings. Our advice is to listen to the information provided and take some time to consider your interests.

If you wish to have another person present in these discussions you can request that. Your Alliance organiser, Jake Wishart is available if you would like him to attend. Alana Schetzer, your Alliance House Committee rep is also available.

Please call Jake on 0413 xxx xxx  if you need his assistance.

Regards,

Louise Connor
Victorian Secretary

This article originally appeared on Crikey.

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