Wednesday, March 28, 2012

While The New York Times, in print and online, continues to be a marvel of American journalism, the economics of the business are challenging, and have been for some time. Despite the success of the pay model, and the hard work of Guild members and excluded managers alike, New York Times Media Group revenues declined 22 percent during the term of your last contract, from 2003 to 2011.

We wish this weren’t true, but it is. No business can face a decline of this magnitude without taking steps to bring its costs into line with the smaller revenues. Over the last few years, we’ve reduced staff, tightly controlled nonpayroll expenses and eliminated some unprofitable operations, and froze defined pension plans for non-union employees. The Guild did participate with us when we sought a temporary 5 percent payroll reduction in 2009 as part of this effort, and we deeply appreciate it.

Nevertheless, we have to do more. To ignore it would be to put The Times itself, and all of our jobs, at risk. And the most important thing we can do is to eliminate the expense, risk and volatility of the defined-benefit pension plans many of our employees have enjoyed over the years. In doing this, we are acting no differently than most other employers in America — as The Times itself reported a few weeks ago, only 14 percent of employees throughout the country still have defined-benefit pension plans. They are great for employees, but they are, sadly, unaffordable.

Terry Hayes, Senior Vice President Operations and Labor, New York Times, in a memo to staff explaining the paper’s position on labor negotiations with the Newspaper Guild of New York.

The news: the Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents many New York Times newsroom employees, and the Times have been negotiating a new contract after the previous one expired. The Times, which saw a net loss of $39.7 million in 2011 would like to reduce future pension obligations.

The Guild, which also represents 3,000 media employees at New York area news organizations as diverse as Thompson Reuters, the Nation, El Diario and Jewish Forward, calls the Times’ new offer “slightly less offensive” than previous proposals.

Hayes’ memo via Jim Romenesko.

(via futurejournalismproject)