Fairfax flags voluntary redundancies

by Stephanie Zillman27 Jun 2012

Staff at Fairfax Media will be told today how the company plans to restructure its newsrooms to survive in the digital age. Already a round of voluntary redundancies has been announced to start in July, while overall more than 1,900 jobs will go over the next three years.

During any planned downsizing, a question for HR and employers is always whether to opt for a voluntary or forced redundancy process – but for one HR expert, opting for voluntary redundancies means “you’ve got rocks in your head”.

Voluntary redundancy is a process common in the public sector, and can have the benefit of taking less of a toll on workplace morale. Yet, it comes at the cost of reduced control over the process and many claim it is fundamentally flawed because those who are confident they will quickly find a new job – ie. the best performers – will leave. “In my view, if you go ahead with voluntary redundancies you’ve got rocks in your head,” Tim Roche from HR consultancy Right Management said. “I saw it a million times in the early ‘90s dealing with public sector privatisations; they’d conduct these voluntary redundancies and all the talent would take the money and walk out the door because they backed themselves to find another job, and in the meantime you’re left with the deadwood.”

According to Roche, in all but exceptional business circumstances, forced redundancy is the smarter business move.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) told Fairfax union members in a note that the round of voluntary redundancies will start in mid-July and applications will be taken for four weeks from the date. The note also said Fairfax bosses are working on suitability criteria to decide who will get a redundancy, and the union will be consulted in the process.


  • by Fiona Smith 27/06/2012 2:38:05 PM

    The reason that this reasoning is wrong in this case (for journalists at least) is that the media industry, as a whole, is contracting. So, if you love being a journalist, you stay put. Those who are considering voluntary redundancy in this case (and I work in the company and know this for a fact) are those with long periods of service, 10 years and more, who are prepared to get out of the industry altogether. We all know there will be thousands and talented and able journalists out of a job and there will be virtually no new openings for a considerable period of time and a freelancing career looks very dodgy. The people who are left will not be "deadwood", but they will be people who love their jobs and their industry and have faith enough to stay.
    I think we should be past calling great swathes of people "deadwood" anyway. I know very few people who come near this description.

  • by Alison Monroe 28/06/2012 2:06:32 PM

    After 15 years in the career transition business, now focussing on long tenure, more mature workers impacted by change, I am seeing an alarming trend whereby organisations who call for VR feel that if the individual has 'chosen' to leave, then they do not require any transition support. Ludicrous! When valued, long term employees are faced with change and uncertainty about their future, it has a huge impact of identity, health, finances, career choices and relationships. We would like to believe that employers acknowledge this and do their very best to provide holistic and high quality support to their employees at these times - preferably whilst they are still with the organisation - not just on the way out. Employees and their families/friends go out into the World as potential customers and advocates. Or not!

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