ACM suspends non-daily newspapers, stands down employees

Daily newspapers and agricultural titles not affected as ACM stands down four print sites, non-daily papers

Coronavirus
Publication of ACM's 14 daily newspapers will not be affected by the temporary shutdown of four press sites.

Publication of ACM's 14 daily newspapers will not be affected by the temporary shutdown of four press sites.

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Executive chairman Antony Catalano tells staff: "We have no choice"

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Media company ACM says printing operations at four press facilities and the production of a number of non-daily newspapers will be suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and employees associated with the print sites and products stood down until the end of June.

The printed editions of ACM's 14 daily newspapers, such as The Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald and The Border Mail, are not affected and will continue to be available, along with the weekly editions of the company's leading agricultural publications, such as The Land in NSW, Farm Weekly in Western Australia and Queensland Country Life.

In a message emailed to staff on Tuesday, ACM executive chairman Antony Catalano said the company had been "working tirelessly to try to maintain a full level of services and meet the needs of our team members, customers and the community".

But the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the economy had "affected significantly" ACM's revenue from advertising and external printing contracts.

"For reasons beyond our control, we cannot sustain the same level of useful work or costs moving forward," Mr Catalano said.

"Accordingly, we have no choice but to temporarily cease some of our publications and temporarily close our printing sites in Canberra, Murray Bridge, Wodonga and Tamworth from April 20 until June 29.

"Regrettably, this means that for some of our employees across the business there will be no useful work available, and they will be stood down from work in accordance with the provisions of the Fair Work Act."

Some other employees would be asked to reduce their hours "where there remains some limited useful work that can be performed" while company executives had already agreed to voluntary pay cuts.

Mr Catalano said ACM was "closely assessing our eligibility for the government's JobKeeper payment and intends to register as soon as we are eligible to do so".

Which non-daily titles will temporarily cease publishing and how many employees are affected has not been disclosed as managers begin to brief teams and consult with individuals.

In his note to staff, Mr Catalano said COVID-19 was "affecting all our communities".

"We are aware that this is a very challenging time and every person across the business is being impacted," he said

"At this stage it is not possible to say when we will be able to resume normal operations. We are closely monitoring developments and will keep employees updated as things change."

While operations at ACM's printing facilities at Canberra, Wodonga on the NSW-Victorian border, Tamworth in NSW and Murray Bridge in South Australia will be halted from Monday, continuing printing work - such as of daily newspapers - will be redirected to other press sites.

Limited news coverage will continue on websites of publications affected by the temporary shutdown.

Large numbers of ACM staff have been working from home since early March as part of a company-wide response to official government directives on social distancing.

In recent days, ACM has given notice to the landlords of more than 30 small offices around the country that it intends to exit lease arrangements to reduce rental costs across the business.

ACM's 14 daily newspapers are The Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, Illawarra Mercury, Northern Daily Leader, Central Western Daily, Western Advocate, Dubbo Daily Liberal, Wagga Daily Advertiser, The Border Mail, Bendigo Advertiser, The Courier, The Standard, The Examiner and The Advocate.

ACM's state-based agricultural weeklies are The Land, Victoria's Stock & Land, Queensland Country Life and the North Queensland Register, Western Australia's Farm Weekly and South Australia's Stock Journal.

The story ACM suspends non-daily newspapers, stands down employees first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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