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BUSTING: The Age management produce strike-breaking edition #1

theageonice Despite gleeful Age journalists being told by their usually not very effective union MEAA that they’d be able to stop production of the newspaper due to support from militant printers at the Age’s Tullamarine plant, it seems Age management has succeeded in putting out Friday’s paper in the midst of industrial action by their editorial staff.

Depending on your point of view, it’s an impressive effort by management or ugly strike breaking.

Either way, Age/Herald management should be gravely concerned about the impact of industrial action on their trendy left mastheads. Management might argue that the mastheads themselves are only worth the discounted cash flow they generate. And it has long been the case that the Age and Sydney Morning Herald only make money on one day a week: Saturday.

At 5.23pm the union members’ hopes were raised when they received an SMS:
Fairfax Melb, Illawarra & Newcastle members are on strike effective immediately. AMWU @ Tullamarine printers also out.

agestopwork The staff’s spokesman-militant Michael Bachelard admitted on ABC radio that the staff might be illegal.

Oddly, The Age barely even reported on the industrial action, only running the yarn in the briefs section.

At the heart of the staff’s complaints is that they are not being consulted about staff cuts and issues like outsourcing. Trouble was that last time they had all-hands meetings, many journalists taped the meeting and emailed copies around, part of which was published by Eric Beecher at Crikey.

The excellent Brad Norington at the Australian has broken some big sub-yarns in the Fairfax strike story:
â–  Fairfax management have pulled out of sponsoring the union’s Walkley Awards and will now run its own internal awards;
â–  The Fin Review’s London bureau has been shuttered and its European correspondent has been ordered home to share in the Fairfax fun;
â–  The printers’ union – despite initially sympathetic noises – will not be supporting the journalists’ strike action; and
â–  The strike action taken by the staff is arguably unlawful because they did not conduct a secret ballot first leaving the union in a vulnerable legal position should the company pursue them in court.

UPDATE: Mike Carlton – the Sydney Morning Herald columnist – has been sacked for refusing to file his column for tomorrow’s edition.


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  1. The “excellent” Brad Norrington is working for the opposition – of course he’s trying to bring fairfax down.

    Posted by Insane in the mainframe | August 29, 2008, 17:16
  2. The Fairfax management has gone mad. Or I should say, madder. Today they told their longstanding and hardworking Sydney legal team that they are no longer needed. A newspaper telling its legal team they are no longer valued? What’s the message there? Apparently Fairfax intends to outsource any legalling, as if that will save any costs or improve efficiency. Don’t expect any more hard stories in the SMH or the Sun Herald.

    In fact, you might well wonder if it is worth continuing to read the SMH at all under this regime. There’ll be plenty of fashion (all of page three every day and no doubt mostly DJs stuff) and plenty of lifestyle stuff, plus oodles of recycled PR releases, but no time or journalists to find hard stories that need any digging, take time or are in any way legally risky. The Fairfax management might as well turn to producing ‘shop till you drop’ guides.

    Posted by herald | August 29, 2008, 20:41
  3. How appropriate that Peter Costello’s tribute tonight is taking place in a museum. That’s where he found his barmy micro economic theories.

    Posted by museum frolics | August 29, 2008, 20:59
  4. Michael Gill at the AFR is breaking ranks and his minions are soliciting new software publishing systems to run the AFR layout of its newspaper and websites, an Italian one, at that. They had monitored the botched rollout of the Atex/Cybergraphics system called Genera at The Age, which is four months behind schedule. $20m down the gurgler. Oops. Perhaps they better sack a few staff.

    Posted by oops | August 29, 2008, 21:04