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December 2011, Week 4

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Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>
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Wed, 28 Dec 2011 20:59:38 -0500
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New York Times Staffers Express 'Profound Dismay' With
Management
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/26/new-york-times-arthur-sulzberger-letter_n_1170401.html


NEW YORK -- New York Times staffers unhappy with
management are letting publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
know it. In recent days, more than 270 current and
former Times employees have signed an open letter
expressing their "profound dismay" with recent company
decisions.

Bill O'Meara, president of the New York Newspaper Guild,
said some staffers had considered even "more dramatic"
actions.

"There were people who wanted to storm Arthur
Sulzberger's office," O'Meara told The Huffington Post.
"There were people who wanted to stage a walkout."

For now, Times staffers opted for the letter, which was
composed in the newsroom and posted online by the guild
at saveourtimes.com. Since last week, hundreds of
current staffers -- from metro reporters to foreign
correspondents, arts critics to web producers -- and
several Times alumni have continued adding their names.

The letter calls attention to several grievances. Last
week, Times brass notified foreign citizens employed in
the paper's overseas bureaus that their pensions would
be frozen. In the letter, Times staffers dismayed by
this decision point out to Sulzberger that some of these
foreign employees, working alongside Times reporters in
war zones, have "risked their lives so that we can do
our jobs."

The open letter may have been prompted by this and other
recent decisions, but it brought to the surface
long-simmering tensions. In the past several years,
staffers have faced temporary pay cuts, layoffs, and
buyouts. They have worked since March without a new
contract. Regarding ongoing negotiations, the letter
notes that Sulzberger's "negotiators have demanded a
freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent
health insurance." O'Meara said staffers did not receive
a raise this year.

Such compensation and benefit issues are playing out
while the Times faces a problem with retention, as
executive editor Jill Abramson acknowledged when she
landed the paper's highest-ranking masthead job last
June. The Times, which could once keep high-profile
reporters and editors from heading to rival newspapers
based on the paper's cachet alone, has recently faced
increased competition for top talent from
non-traditional outlets, such as Bloomberg News, ESPN,
and The Huffington Post.

The letter also mentions that a member of "senior
management" is now leaving with "a very generous
severance and retirement package, including full pension
benefits." Indeed, outgoing CEO Janet Robinson -- the
unnamed executive-- will reportedly take home a $15
million exit package, according to Reuters. Times
staffers with stock options have seen the share price
drop from over $35 at the beginning of Robinson's tenure
in 2003 to less than $8 at opening on Tuesday.

A Times spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the
paper is "not commenting on the negotiations while they
are ongoing but we continue to look forward to reaching
agreement with the guild."

O'Meara said he hopes to present the letter and
signatures to Times management at the end of the week.
The guild also plans to post comments from some of the
Times staffers who signed the letter, after he obtains
their permission. "Many people wrote powerful, moving
comments," he said. "We want to make sure they're OK
putting it out there."

One such comment, O'Meara said, included pictures of
Sultan M. Munadi and Khalid Hassan, two Times foreign
employees killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.

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