Strikes loom at regional newspaper group

The first Dutch newspaper strike since 1989 came a step nearer on Wednesday as journalists at seven regional papers owned by Wegener threatened to take action unless a cost-cutting plan is rejected.

Staff at the Gelderlander have almost unanimously agreed to stop the publication of one edition next week and the other six papers will vote on taking industrial action later today. ‘The question is, how deep can you cut and still stay healthy,’ Brabants Dagblad editor Annemieke Besseling says in today’s NRC.
In total, up to 465 jobs will go if the reorganisation, aimed at saving €35m, goes ahead. According to the Volkskrant, the revamp is part of efforts by Wegener’s new owner Mecom to improve the group’s return on investment from 13% to 20%.
A meeting between the papers’ editors in chief and the owner of Mecom, British newspaper man David Montgomery, has been cancelled.
On Tuesday evening, culture minister Ronald Plasterk told MPs the job losses were worrying but there was little which could be done about it. In particular, MPs are worried about the loss of 85 journalists’ jobs which they say may reduce news coverage and stop the press doing its work.
‘The situation is acute so it is logical we talk about it,’ Plasterk. ‘In the autumn, I will publish a briefing on the situation the press faces, and this sort of development will be on the agenda.’
Dutch newspapers have also been hit by falling readership and advertising income.

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