08.Dec .2022 15:30

New York Times poised for first mass staff walkout in 40 years

New York Times poised for first mass staff walkout in 40 years
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The New York Times is bracing for a 24-hour walkout on Thursday by hundreds of journalists and other employees, in what would be the first strike of its kind at the newspaper in more than 40 years.

Newsroom employees and other members of the NewsGuild of New York say they are fed up with bargaining that has dragged on since their last contract expired in March 2021. The union announced last week that more than 1,100 employees would stage a 24-hour work stoppage starting at 12.01am on Thursday unless the two sides reached a contract deal.

Negotiations lasted for more than 12 hours into late Tuesday and continued on Wednesday, but the sides remained far apart on issues including wage increases and remote-work policies.

On Wednesday evening the union said via Twitter that a deal had not been reached and the walkout was happening. “We were ready to work for as long as it took to reach a fair deal,” it said, “but management walked away from the table with five hours to go.”

“We know what we’re worth,” the union added.

But New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said in a statement that they were still in negotiations when they were told that the strike was happening.

“It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not at an impasse,” she said.

It was unclear how the day’s coverage would be affected, but the strike’s supporters include members of the fast-paced live-news desk, which covers breaking news for the digital paper. Employees are planning a rally for Thursday afternoon outside the newspaper’s offices near Times Square.

Rhoades Ha told the Associated Press that the company had “solid plans in place” to continue producing content, which include relying on international reporters and other journalists who are not union members.

“While we are disappointed that the NewsGuild is threatening to strike, we are prepared to ensure the Times continues to serve our readers without disruption,” Rhoades Ha said in separate statement.

In a note sent to Guild-represented staff Tuesday night, the deputy managing editor Cliff Levy called the planned strike “puzzling” and “an unsettling moment in negotiations over a new contract”. He said it would be the first strike by the bargaining unit since 1981 and “comes despite intensifying efforts by the company to make progress”.

But in a letter signed by more than 1,000 employees, the NewsGuild said management had been “dragging its feet” bargaining for nearly two years and “time is running out to reach a fair contract” by the end of the year.

The NewsGuild also said the company told employees planning to strike they would not get paid for the duration of the walkout. Members were also asked to work extra hours get work done ahead of the strike, according to the union.

The New York Times has seen other, shorter walkouts in recent years, including a half-day protest in August by a new union representing technology workers who claimed unfair labor practices.

In one breakthrough that both sides called significant, the company backed off its proposal to replace the existing adjustable pension plan with an enhanced 401(k) retirement plan. The Times offered instead to let the union choose between the two. The company also agreed to expand fertility treatment benefits.

Levy said the company had also offered to raise wages by 5.5% upon ratification of the contract, followed by 3% increases in 2023 and 2024. That would be an increase from the 2.2% annual increases in the expired contract.

Stacy Cowley, a finance reporter and union representative, said the union was seeking 10% pay raises at ratification, which she said would make up for the pay raises not received over the past two years.

She also said the union wanted the contract to guarantee employees the option to work remotely some of the time, if their roles allow for it, but the company wanted the right to recall workers to the office full time. Cowley said the Times has required its staff to be in office three days a week but many have been showing up fewer days in an informal protest, Guardian reports.