The New York Times, which has been in financial turmoil for years, is now facing an open revolt from staffers who are unhappy with the newspaper’s current management.
Employees who have weathered layoffs and salary cuts over the last few years received another jolt last week when the paper announced that it was freezing pension benefits for foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus, and that it wanted to do the same for other employees at the paper as well.
This announcement, coming on the heels of the revelation that the soon to be departing CEO Janet L. Robinson will be collecting her $10.9 million pension benefits early, angered the New York Newspaper Guild which is in negotiations with management on a new contract.
The Guild has issued an Open Letter to publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger. Jr,, and as of this morning contains the signatures of 358 current and former Times staffers, up from 270 two days ago.
Bill O’Meara, president of the New York Newspaper Guild, which is behind the letter, told the Huffington Post that some staffers wanted to storm Sulzberger’s office, while others wanted to stage a walkout.
The only action that O’Meara is planning on is presenting the letter and signatures to management at the end of the week.
Freezing the pensions may be a necessary step in Sulzberger’s plan to save the paper, but to do so after giving Robinson her big pension early on top of her fat consulting contract only reinforces the notion of just how out of touch he is with reality.
One thing is for sure. Despite the kerfuffle, the media bias will continue unabated.
Here is the letter:
December 23, 2011
We, the Guild leadership and many reporters, editors, account managers and other Times employees, Guild members and otherwise, are writing to express profound dismay at several recent developments.
Our foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus have just had their pensions frozen with only a week’s warning. Some of these people have risked their lives so that we can do our jobs. A couple have even lost them. Many have spent their entire careers at the Times — indeed, some have letters from your father explaining the pension system — and deserve better treatment.
At the same time, your negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance.
We ask you to withdraw these demands so that negotiations on a new contract can proceed fruitfully and expeditiously. We also urge you to reconsider the decision to eliminate the pensions of the foreign employees.
We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent. Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.
One of our colleagues in senior management recently announced her retirement from the paper, which is reported to include a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits.
All of us who work at the Times deserve to have a secured retirement; this should not be a privilege cynically reserved to senior management. We strongly urge you to keep faith with your words and our shared mission of putting out the best newspaper in the world.