Fairfax Media staff strike for a week over job cuts

Struggling Australian newspaper group Fairfax has announced it will cut another 125 editorial jobs as part of a restructure to save money

Staff at Australia's Fairfax Media walked off the job for a week on Wednesday in protest at more hefty job cuts as the leading publisher struggles to cope with slumping revenues.

The strike action by journalists, including those from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age, followed an announcement that Fairfax will cut another 125 editorial jobs -- a quarter of its newsroom -- as part of a restructure to save money.

"On strike for a week," tweeted Herald chief political correspondent James Massola after a stop-work meeting, while his colleague Judith Ireland said: "Quality journalism needs actual journalists to do the journalism."

Fairfax, which also publishes the Australian Financial Review, has already shed hundreds of staff and restructured its operations in recent years to be more digital-focused as the internet and new publishers such as Google disrupt its business model.

The group's editorial director Sean Aylmer announced the fresh staff cuts on Wednesday morning, while also flagging plans to radically scale back its use of freelancers.

The news comes as New Zealand's competition watchdog on Wednesday rejected a merger of Fairfax Media NZ and NZME, pitched by the companies last year to boost their ability to compete with online media giants.

Sydney-based chief executive of Fairfax Greg Hywood subsequently warned that the New Zealand arm, which has also already slashed jobs, would have to look at more "cost efficiencies".

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which represents journalists, said it was appalled at the "dumb decision" to cut jobs in Australia.

"This will only undermine and damage its mastheads further, alienating its audience and leaving the editorial staff that remain to work harder and harder to fill the gaps," chief executive Paul Murphy said in a statement.

Like its global peers, Fairfax has slashed jobs and costs owing to falling circulation and advertising revenue.

The group, which has also radio and digital interests, is the main rival in Australia to News Limited, Rupert Murdoch's Australian empire, which is also suffering from falling revenues.

Fairfax reported a six percent rise in half-year net profit to Aus$84.7 million (US$63 million) in February, benefitting from cost cutting and a strong performance by its property publishing arm Domain.