Fairfax workers win reprieve on job losses

Fairfax Media workers have won a reprieve after unions took the embattled media company to the industrial umpire over its plans to axe 1,900 jobs.

Five unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) took Fairfax to Fair Work Australia today to seek consultation with management about the company's plans for the drastic job cuts.

They told the Fair Work hearing in Melbourne that the company had breached its legal obligation by failing to consult with workers on the changes.

AMWU assistant secretary for Victoria Leigh Diehm says Fairfax has agreed to negotiate with the unions on the redundancies, with talks expected to start within a week.

"We feel that we've got a commitment from Fairfax to sit down and go through a proper consultation process," he said.

"That remains to be seen.

They want us, as in the ACTU, on behalf of all the unions involved today, to write them a letter requesting that meeting and we feel that that meeting will go ahead." On Monday, Fairfax announced a major restructure, including the job losses and closing two printing plants.

Under disclosure rules, Fairfax had to announce its restructure plans to the Australian Securities Exchange at the same time as it informed staff.

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says the way Fairfax announced the restructure treated workers with contempt.

"For the last 10 years this company has been telling us 'it's okay, not a problem, we're going well', and then two days ago it seems that they've had knee-jerk or they are panicking with an announcement to shed 1,900 jobs, to shut two facilities which are fairly modern without providing any information," Mr Oliver said.

"Now we are deeply concerned and disappointed.

We haven't had an opportunity to engage and to consult, we haven't seen the business plan, we haven't seen the logic behind this decision.

"We don't know what their future plans are in regards if they intend on continuing to print newspapers - what form, where, by who and when." News Limited announced a major overhaul of its operations yesterday, but has committed to talking to unions before cutting any jobs.

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