Shame, Fairfax, Shame!
Fairfax staff – journalists, columnists, sub-editors, and printing staff of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, and some other small papers – are on strike this weekend in protest against the publishers' massive job cuts. And rightly so.
Now, Fairfax has sacked SMH columnist Mike Carlton because he refused to write his column for tomorrow's SMH – because he was also on strike. Shame, Fairfax! Shame!
Being an Age reader, I'm not familiar with Carlton's work, but he has brought us such wonderful pieces as this lovely demolition job on sports commentators mangling the English language. If you are not familiar with his work, you can take a look at his tongue-in-cheek, wry, dry and withering pieces online.
It is indeed a shame they sacked him, but not only for the loss of his talent. It is the act of true corporate scumbaggery to sack striking workers – and worse to hire scabs to replace them! The union is now arguing that Carlton's sacking is illegal.
This affair has boiled over pretty quickly. Fairfax announced earlier this week that 550 Fairfax staff would be sacked. Very soon on the back of that news came the shock sacking of The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan.
SMH journalist Gerard Noonan told ABC News, "the cuts will threaten the media's ability to hold politicians and the powerful to account." Yes, he is right.
Meanwhile, Fairfax is trying to go on as if there is no strike and trying to put its media content out. You may have noticed that The Age Online is still churning out stories and updates as if there is no strike by the journalists – but appearances are misleading. Most of the stories since about midday today, if not earlier, are off the newswires – AFP, AAP and others. It appears as if some online staff may be left to tidy up the newswire reports, but that is uncertain.
In fact, a news item on the tropical storm hitting the Carribean bears the disclamer: "This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units." So apparently there are not enough scabs to tidy up all the newswire items and editors are just plugging them in to their system.
Sloppy. Cheap. And nasty.
You can contact the journo's union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, to show them your support and solidarity for the strikers, remembering that a fair few of them will be relatively low-paid reporters, printers, and quite likely bloggers and online content staff...