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December 3, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:49am

Sushi, sake and £5,600 bonuses all round: Happy Christmas for FT journalists after ‘exceptional’ 2021

By Bron Maher

Financial Times journalists are to receive bonuses of £5,600 this month after the publisher reported profits “well ahead of our business plan”.

In an all-staff email seen by Press Gazette, chief executive John Ridding praised his employees for “an exceptional performance in 2021, despite the challenging environment”.

“I’m pleased to say that we have surpassed significantly our revenue expectations for the final quarter and will end the year with profits well ahead of our business plan,” he said.

“Every division and department has performed well, driving a strong recovery from the shocks of the pandemic. Engagement and subscriptions have also had an impressive post-summer run.

“Editorial excellence, best in class business performance, collaboration, innovation and sheer hard work have combined with a fair wind to bring about this success – and it’s only right that success on this scale is rewarded.”

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In his Wednesday email, Ridding said that every FT group employee would receive an 8% bonus on their salary “to be paid in December payroll in time for the holiday season”.

However, in an email the following day, FT managing editor Tobias Buck said that editorial staff, regardless of salary, would all be paid £5,600, €6,512, $7,744 or HKD60,183, depending on the currency they are paid in.

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Press Gazette understands that this figure represents 8% of the average editorial salary at the FT, meaning the £5,600 sum disproportionately benefits lower-paid employees. The figure suggests that, across editorial staff, average FT salary is £70,000.

Buck’s email also covered the conclusion of the paper’s 2022 pay deal negotiations with the National Union of Journalists. 

“Editorial employees earning less than £77,000 or equivalent will see their salaries increase by £1,800,” he said, while “editorial employees earning more than £77,000 or equivalent will see their salaries increase by 2.3% from January 1”.

According to Buck, the pay deal is structured so as to be progressive, “ensuring that lower-paid colleagues receive a particularly notable uplift in their salaries.

“At the same time, it recognises that colleagues in higher pay bands are facing the challenge posed by the recent – and hopefully temporary – rise in inflation as well.”

Buck said that “the gender pay gap [is] predicted to narrow from 10.36% to 10.11% as a direct result of the pay increase in 2022.”

Freelance rates for sub-editors are also to rise from £160 to £175 a day, and from £145 to £160 a day for picture editors.

News of the payout came on the anniversary of the FT’s 2015 acquisition by Japanese company Nikkei, which Ridding said is “always a day of celebration, as we reflect on the benefits of having such an aligned and supportive owner.”

The chief executive invited employees to join him, editor Roula Khalaf and Nikkei chair Naotoshi Okada “to mark the occasion and look to the future over sushi and sake” later that day. 

The bonanza marks a change from December last year, when the FT cut 64 jobs not long after it emerged former editor Lionel Barber had been paid a £1.92m salary in 2019. The paper’s NUJ chapel stated at the time that:  “We reject any notion that FT success is about a single individual and believe that such excessive payouts are toxic to morale.”

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