Worcester Guild slams Times Co. executives

One month after Newspaper Guild members at the Boston Globe circulated a letter criticizing New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and president Janet Robinson for richly rewarding themselves while threatening to shut the Globe, their counterparts at Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette have followed suit.

Beset by what they describe as a four-year pay freeze, substantial newsroom downsizing and proposed cuts in benefits, union officials say management has repeatedly called for “sacrifice” while Sulzberger and Robinson paid themselves more than $12 million in 2009.

As you no doubt know, the Times Co. operates the Globe, the T&G and Boston.com as a unit known as the New England Media Group. But though the Guild has a presence at both papers, the largest union at the Globe is the Boston Newspaper Guild, whereas T&G employees are represented by the Providence Newspaper Guild.

The Worcester protest coincides with an announcement by the T&G that it will start charging for some online content starting this summer. (So, too, will the Concord Monitor, as the paid-content trend continues to ramp up. Here is Tony Schinella’s take.)

The full text of the Worcester Guild’s press release and letter to Sulzberger and Robinson follows.

NYTimes Execs Big Raises Gall Guild in Worcester

Contact:

Bob Datz  508 xxx-xxxx
Lee Hammel 508 xxx-xxxx
Worcester Unit Council members
Local 31041 The Newspaper Guild

The letter below was sent April 23 to NY Times Co. chairman  Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson by the Worcester (Mass.) unit of The Newspaper Guild, expressing frustration with the enormous pay raises they recived.

During the three years that contract negotiations with the Guild in Worcester have stretched out, the company has offered its employees no pay raise. (The day before union members were scheduled to ratify the letter,  the company finally offered a one-time $750 signing bonus, which amounts to about  0.4 percent of pay over 3 years without raising base pay, in exchange for stripping away hard-won rights and benefits).

We would appreciate if you would consider a story alerting your readers to the dichotomy between the NYTimes editorial insistence that others behave justly and its attitude toward its own employees.

April 23, 2010

Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
Chairman
Janet Robinson
President and Chief Executive Officer
The New York Times Company
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY10018

Dear Arthur and Janet,

Many of us at the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester don’t pay a lot of attention to high finance in New York. We have terrific jobs in the world’s best industry, and we are only too happy to concentrate on the business and politics and human drama that enliven Central Massachusettsday in and day out that we are privileged to gather and write and distribute.

But even the most focused of us could not help but notice the pay raises that both of you received for 2009. You have told us that our business is changing and times are difficult, and we have heard the same in contract negotiations over the past three years. We understand that we must change with the times in an environment where paid circulation and advertising revenue are falling. And management has told us that sacrifice is necessary.

So imagine our surprise upon learning the kind of “sacrifice” that you are enduring. As President and Chief Executive Officer, you Janet, have been given a 31.8 percent increase in salary, bonus, and other compensation in a single year, bringing your total compensation to $6.3 million.

Arthur, as Board Chairman and Publisher of the New York Times, your total compensation more than doubled in 2009, to $6 million. The $3.7 million that your compensation increased could pay the salary of some 75 of the people that have been laid off by the company, some of whom we have been saddened to see walk out our own doors.

Meanwhile, The Newspaper Guild has been in negotiation with the management in Worcester, as our contract expired nearly three years ago. Fortunately, we are told, the Telegram & Gazette is not only not losing money, but continues to make money through this period, albeit at lower than customary levels.

Nevertheless we have been offered neither a pay raise nor bonus over a four-year period. In fact, the company proposes to slash real compensation when benefits are considered. Management also wants to stop offering a pension to any new hires and to freeze the guaranteed pension of those of us who have one, in a “tradeoff” that the company should be well aware calculates to significant losses in projected retirement income.

While offering little or no financial incentive, the company wants to change contract language to remove the substantial equivalency of our medical coverage with no guarantees on the proportionate sharing of the premium costs. Finally, the company wishes to be allowed to lay off employees regardless of seniority.

This takes place in a backdrop of existing layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes that have brought an 18 percent reduction of the company’s work force in 2009 alone. The employees remaining are asked, or forced, to reduce their benefits in the wake of a management decision to build a new skyscraper for the company headquarters. Our productivity subsidizes not only distant and ill-fated real estate transactions (click here) but deficits in units where employees are paid significantly better than we are, even with recent concessionary contracts.

We are thrilled to see the New York Times editorial pages seek fair treatment for people. Arthur and Janet, we ask that we, like you, receive some financial consideration for our efforts and that you recognize the increased work load we have taken on, because we, like you, have families who depend on us.

Sincerely,

Members of The Newspaper Guild
Worcester Unit, Local 31041

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