Staff at Mirror publisher Reach were “angry and hurt” to see the company announce it was “delighted” to acquire the Irish Daily Star at the same time as it is cutting hundreds of jobs.
Reach took on full ownership of the tabloid after agreeing to buy out Independent News and Media’s 50% stake in its publisher, Independent Star Ltd. Reach bought its first 50% stake in 2018.
The deal is now subject to competition approval and is expected to complete later in the year.
On Thursday, Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said it was a “natural next step for us to acquire the remaining 50% and we are delighted to have reached agreement with INM”.
The British Association of Journalists, which is the recognised union for Reach, wrote to Mullen today telling him that Thursday’s statement “caused enormous consternation and outrage” among “very angry and hurt staff”.
In an email, seen by Press Gazette, the union said staff were upset and angry that the news of the company’s “delight” was announced during the “hugely stressful time of large scale redundancies aimed at saving costs”.
Reach is planning to cut around 550 jobs across its national and regional titles to deliver savings of £35m a year because of the impact of Covid-19 on the business.
The union questioned why Reach is investing in another print newspaper when it says it wants to focus on its digital offering.
It also criticised the timing of the takeover as staff who were not put on furlough during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis have only just had full pay reinstated after a three-month cut.
BAJ asked for an apology to employees who were distressed by the way the news was broken, including the fact it was not communicated to staff before being announced publicly. But Press Gazette understands it is Reach’s position that the news was communicated directly to its Irish staff and to all staff on its internal platform before being done externally.
The union also called for the recent salary cuts to be repaid and for information to be given on how the acquisition will impact staff alongside a commitment to avoid job losses by making savings via other methods.
A Reach spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The acquisition of the 50% of IN&M’s stake in the Irish Daily Star was always envisioned following the acquisition of the UK title.
“The deal, which is still subject to completion, clearly strengthens the long-term profitability of the business so is in keeping with our responsible approach to protecting Reach and its news titles.”
Reach bought the UK’s Daily Star along with the Daily Express in early 2018 and has since begun to integrate their teams with those at the Mirror.
Marc Vangeel, chief executive of INM who have been a shareholder in the Irish Daily Star since 1987, said Reach’s offer will “ensure the newspaper has a bright future” if it is approved.
“We wish the new owners continued success with the title,” he said.
Reach is already the biggest newspaper publisher in the UK and Ireland. Its existing Irish titles include the Irish Mirror and the Dublin Live website.