January 4, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Keith J. Kelly:
More than 500 angry present and former employees of the New York Times signed an open letter sent last night by the Newspaper Guild blasting New York Times Co. Chairman Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. over the contract impasse and the lavish pay heaped on the former CEO of the company.
The widespread discontent among rank-and-file workers was stoked in recent weeks when it was learned that Janet Robinson, the CEO who was apparently forced out in a surprise December “retirement,” was given a $4.5 million severance package as well as accelerated eligibility to collect a $10.9 million pension, putting the grand total of her exit package at $15.4 million.
The discontent comes as the Guild has been without a contract since its last one expired in March. Company representatives told the union it was seeking a no-wage-increase contract and a frozen pension plan with no further contributions for employees in a new contract.
The Guild has about 1,000 active Times employees in its ranks and is the largest union at the Times, counting newsroom journalists and photographers as well as ad account managers and others on the business side.
“We are writing to express profound dismay over several recent developments,” said the letter, which began circulating on Dec. 22 and was slated to be shipped to Sulzberger last night.
The angriest signatories appear to be employees in foreign bureaus, who have already been told their pensions have been frozen.
Added another signer: “As the Guild letter states, the disconnect between the praise lavished upon us and dismissive treatment we have experienced in negotiations has reached grotesque proportions. Talk without supporting action is by definition cheap and a little contemptible to boot.”
Added Walter Baranger, another overseas worker, “We have foreign staff who lived in terror that they would lose their positions because our pension was the only way they could ever retire.”
“All of us who work at the Times deserve to have a secure retirement,” said the letter. “This should not be a privilege cynically reserved for upper management.”
The Guild and company recently huddled for the first time since June 1, but remain far apart.