Dozens of New Zealand jobs are in the air after Fairfax Media decided to end an experiment sharing work between its Australian and New Zealand operations and instead outsource subediting work.

At an announcement this afternoon approximately 70 full-time sub-editing staff - many from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch listening in via phone conferencing - were told of a proposal to make their jobs redundant.

The affected staff process stories for Australian sister titles including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review and The Age.

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Fairfax New Zealand had picked up this work in 2012 following cost-saving restructuring at Australian operations.

Fairfax yesterday told staff it was proposing to end the arrangement and instead have the work conducted by Australasian firm Pagemasters.

A Fairfax Media spokesperson said: "Today we briefed the approximately 70 full-time equivalent staff in New Zealand that would be affected by a proposal to move editorial production work they perform for Australian metro mastheads to a third-party provider, Pagemasters, which would operate from both New Zealand and Australia. The proposed new arrangements would provide Fairfax additional flexibility and savings. Consultation with staff is ongoing."

Affected staff told the Herald they were in shock at the announcement and said it was unclear whether Pagemasters would be in a position to offer replacement employment or whether they intended to shift work to Australia.

Calls to Pagemasters managing director Peter Atkinson were not immediately answered.

The Herald understands two weeks of consultation are due take place before the proposal is finalised.

Fairfax New Zealand publishes a string of metropolitan and community newspapers, including the Sunday Star-Times, Wellington's Dominion Post and Christchurch's Press. Its print and online offerings compete directly with NZME, the publisher of the Herald.

E tū union media industry co-ordinator Paul Tolich said the announcement left affected Fairfax workers shocked.

"Our members were shocked today by the news. We're surprise at the wisdom of this decision to contract out work, given that the Herald have only last year decided to bring much of theirs back in-house."

Tolich said it appeared Pagemasters would move at least some of the work back to Australia, leaving his members uncertain.

"They're concerned about their futures because not only is the work going outside Fairfax, some will be going to Australia meaning there's reduced ability to find a job within the industry," he said.