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December 8, 2022

Media strikes: 1,100 New York Times employees walk out over pay

A summary of all the strike action and union ballots among UK and US journalists in 2022.

By Charlotte Tobitt

It’s not just tube drivers, airline workers and lawyers who are discontented with pay and conditions this year as the cost of living crisis bites.

Journalists at numerous UK and US publishers are making their voices heard through their unions as well.

So far in the UK, National Union of Journalists members at Reach and National World-owned titles in Scotland have voted for industrial action over pay and redundancies respectively, although National World subsequently called their strike off. More than 1,000 Reach journalists went on strike for one day, on 31 August, and have now accepted a revised pay offer.

Al Jazeera staff were prepared to go on strike before management accepted their pay proposal, while there is unease at the BBC over plans to merge the two 24-hour news channels.

In the US, journalists at the New York Times, Wired and Reuters have been among those vocal at expressing their discontent this year.

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We will keep this page updated with developments relating to pay offers and industrial action across the industry. If something is going on at your company you feel we should know about, please get in touch at pged@pressgazette.co.uk.

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New York Times journalists in 24-hour walkout

8/12/22: More than 1,100 New York Times employees have walked out for 24 hours over what the News Guild union described as “the company’s failure to bargain in good faith, reach a fair contract agreement with the workers and meet their demands”.

The majority of NYT journalists are taking part in the 24-hour walkout on Thursday (8 December).

They asked readers to support their picket line, sharing the message: “Read local news. Listen to public radio. Make something from a cookbook. Break your Wordle streak.”

The union said it wants a minimum salary of $65,000 and a wage proposal that reflects inflation and the average rate of wage gains in the US. The deal being offered by management would amount to a 2.875% rise over the length of the contract, it added.

Many journalists shared their reasons for striking on Twitter. One reporter said: “It is one of the saddest days of my years working at this wonderful place. But in 20 months of contract bargaining, our friends in management simply refuse to get serious about wages.”

NYT chief executive Meredith Kopit Levien said in an email seen by CNN: “It’s disappointing that they’re taking such drastic action, given the clear commitment we’ve shown to negotiate our way to a contract that provides Times journalists with substantial pay increases, market-leading benefits, and flexible working conditions.”

The NYT is still publishing content, but less than usual. Executive editor Joe Kahn said in a message to staff also seen by CNN: “We will produce a robust report on Thursday. But it will be harder than usual.”


Al Jazeera strike averted

1/11/22: Al Jazeera English management has accepted a pay proposal put forward by the NUJ after 96% of its journalists who are union members voted to go on strike.

Journalists will now get a 4.5% pay increase this year and a further 4.5% in 2023.

They had planned to work to rule, meaning working only their contracted hours and duties, and walk out in two 24-hour strikes on 4 and 20 November.


Reach journalists accept revised pay offer

23/9/22: Journalists at Reach have narrowly voted to accept a pay offer from the company after months of dispute and a one-day strike.

Some 1,150 national and regional journalists across the UK and Ireland went on strike for 24 hours on 31 August after turning down a 3% pay offer.

Just over a week later the NUJ agreed to take a new pay proposal from the company to its members in a consultative ballot.

Results revealed on Friday showed that 55% of members who voted accepted the offer and 45% voted against.

A total of 906 valid votes were received of 1,185 ballots issued, meaning turnout of 76.5% across NUJ members at the publisher.

A Reach spokesperson said: “After much hard work and open communication on all sides, the NUJ have accepted Reach’s latest proposal which, in addition to a proposed annual increase and a host of other important commitments, will increase pay for over 700 journalists.

“We are pleased that we have been able to work together to find a way forward and will continue to keep an open dialogue on these crucial issues in the months to come.”

According to the NUJ, the new deal will deliver “significant pay rises to over 700 journalists, many of whom are the lowest paid staff, and improved redundancy terms and conditions for many members in currently in receipt of statutory minimums.

“Including increases secured in July, it will see pay rise for these workers in deals ranging from 14 to 44 per cent across the specified roles and minimum rates.”


Al Jazeera journalists to vote on strike action

23/9/22: NUJ is balloting its members at Al Jazeera over whether they want to take strike action or action short of a strike in a row about pay.

The group chapel has rejected the company’s offer of 4.5% plus an unconsolidated £500 for staff earning less than £50,000.

The NUJ said that pay deal was “unreasonable” because inflation is at 10% and expected to remain high in 2023. It asked for either a higher deal for this year, or a two-year deal of 4.5% this year and 4.5% in 2023.

The new ballot will close on 17 October.

NUJ senior organiser Paul Siegert said: “We hope management will meet with us urgently with a pay offer that can avoid members taking industrial action.”


Three-day Reach strike postponed amid new ballot

12/9/22: A three-day strike by Reach journalists across the UK and Ireland due to be held between 14 to 16 September has been put on hold amid new negotiations between the company and the NUJ.

The NUJ has also ended a “work to rule” period at the publisher until after, if it is still needed, the funeral of The Queen on 19 September.

A ballot of staff asking whether they would like to accept a proposal on pay offered by Reach will open on 14 September and end at 12pm on 23 September.

A Reach spokesperson said: “We have been working on a number of proposals to resolve this dispute and can share that the NUJ have agreed to take a proposal to their members for ballot.

“This is a significant step and we are hopeful for a resolution.”


Al Jazeera staff to ballot over pay

7/9/22: Al Jazeera journalists are preparing to ballot for industrial action over pay after talks with management at conciliation service ACAS fell through on Wednesday.

“A recent informal ballot showed 85.29% of members are willing to take strike action over pay,” the broadcaster’s NUJ chapel tweeted. Broadcast technical staff union BECTU was also involved in the failed talks.


1,150 Reach journalists on picket lines across UK and Ireland over 3% pay offer

31/8/22: Picket lines were held by Reach journalists in London’s Canary Wharf, Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle, Oldham, Liverpool, Hull, Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast and Dublin on Wednesday 31 August in the first day of their strike in protest at a 3% pay offer.

See pictures from across the country here.


Reach strike back on after last-ditch pay talks fail

30/8/22: A staff strike at Reach is back on after last-ditch pay talks between the company and the NUJ broke down over the weekend.

A proposed strike day on Friday had been postponed after the company proposed last-minute negotiations through the pay dispute arbitrator ACAS.

Hundreds of journalists will now strike for one more day than previously planned, on Wednesday 31 August and for three days in a row from Tuesday 13 September to Thursday 15 September.

They will also take part in an extended “work to rule” (meaning working only contracted hours and duties) from Thursday after Wednesday’s strike ends, and on an ongoing basis from Friday 16 September.

The NUJ said its reps had passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in Reach chief executive Jim Mullen as a result as general secretary Michelle Stanistreet claimed he “kiboshed any chance of a sensible deal that addresses our members’ key priority – their consolidated pay”. NUJ members voted to reject a 3% pay offer from the company.

A Reach spokesperson said the company had offered a new career framework with clear salary progressions for journalists as part of the talks.

They said: “Over the weekend we have been in discussions with the NUJ in hope of avoiding industrial action, but unfortunately these talks have ended without agreement.

“We were able to meet the majority of requirements put forward by the NUJ and proposed an accelerated career development framework that would have set out clearer salary progression for journalists, so we are disappointed that our offer was rejected.”

Read the full story here.


NUJ calls off Scotsman strike dates

18/8/22: The NUJ has called off the strike dates it had planned at The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News for 26 August and 2 September.

Although two NUJ members at the titles have been made compulsorily redundant as part of a digital-first restructure, the union said they did not want it to pursue industrial action on their behalf.

“However, there are issues arising from the jobs losses, and we have approached the company for an urgent meeting to discuss these in detail,” NUJ national organiser for Scotland John Toner said.

Read the full story here.


BBC journalists mull strike action over channel cuts

16/8/22: Journalists at the BBC are being consulted over potential strike action in response to plans to merge the TV channels BBC News and World News, according to The Times.

Staff were told last month that the move could see 70 roles cut in its London hub, with 20 new jobs created in Washington DC. The current roster of 19 BBC News anchors in London could be cut to five, it has been reported.

In response the NUJ has started a consultative ballot with journalists to gauge whether they would support a walkout. If a majority back the idea, this could be used in negotiations with bosses before any further or more formal steps towards a strike are taken.


National World Scotland staff to strike same day as Reach

15/8/22: Journalists at National World’s Scotsman titles have announced they will go on strike on 26 August and 2 September amid an ongoing row over compulsory redundancies.

The move means the first day of strike action by Scotsman staff will coincide with nationwide strikes also taking place at Reach titles, including the Mirror, Express and fellow Scottish outlets like the Daily Record.

Press Gazette understands that NUJ members at Reach and National World chose the days selected for industrial action and that the double strike action on 26 August was not planned by the union.

At The Scotsman and sister title Edinburgh Evening News, 29 of 45 NUJ members voted – a turnout of 64%. Of those, 27 (93%) voted yes to strike action and 26 (90%) voted for action short of a strike.

The NUJ said it would continue to negotiate with National World in an attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies by pursuing voluntary ones instead, and thus avert a strike.


Gannett journalists laid off day after walkout

15/8/22: Gannett, the biggest newspaper chain in the US, laid off an unspecified number of journalists and other staff (but estimated to be at least 35 people from 20 newsrooms) on Friday.

A spokesperson told Poynter: “We’ve been transparent about the need to evolve our operations and cost structure in line with our growth strategy while also needing to take swift action given the challenging economic environment. These staffing reductions are incredibly difficult, and we are grateful for the contributions of our departing colleagues.”

The layoffs came a day after hundreds of union members at more than 25 newsrooms across Gannett staged a one-hour lunchtime walkout in response to apparent threats from executives that job cuts were coming.

Earlier in August Gannett’s second-quarter results showed a 7% drop in revenues to $749m and profits (EBITDA) down 56% to $51m due to “legacy print revenue declines and inflationary pressures on labor, newsprint, distribution and fuel costs”.

Gannett is also the parent company of UK regional publisher Newsquest.


Reach journalists vote to strike

12/8/22: Reach journalists across the UK have voted to strike over a 3% pay offer that the NUJ described as “meagre”.

The affected days are 26 and 31 August and 14-15 September, with action short of a strike following “work to rule” taking place between 1 to 13 September. However the NUJ has said it remains open to further discussions.

Reach said it had contingency plans to keep disruption to its news titles “at a minimum” during any strike.

Read the full story here.


National World staff vote for strike action

10/8/22: Journalists at National World in Scotland, on titles including The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, have voted for strike action in a row over compulsory redundancies.

At The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News, 29 of 45 NUJ members voted – a turnout of 64.4%. Of those, 27 (93%) voted yes to strike action and 26 (90%) voted for action short of a strike.

In a second ballot for the weekly titles, which include The Falkirk Herald, and Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 23 NUJ members were balloted and 15 voted – a turnout of 65.2%. The NUJ said ten of those (66%) voted in favour of strike action, while 11 (73%) were in favour of action short of a strike.

The NUJ said it would continue to negotiate with National World in an attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies by pursuing voluntary ones instead, and thus avert a strike. The union now has six months in which it could seek to launch industrial action.

A National World spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is a difficult time for all involved however are disappointed at the stance taken by the NUJ and firmly believe that industrial action is not in the best interests of our staff or our business.”

Read the full story here.


Reuters journalists in US walk out

4/8/22: Nearly 300 Reuters journalists in the US went on strike on Thursday over a management offer of a guaranteed annual wage increase of 1%, according to the NewsGuild union that represents them.

Inflation was at 9.1% in the US in June, the country’s highest since November 1981.

The union said: “The miserly pay offer is particularly hard to swallow for journalists who have found themselves in the line of fire like never before in recent years, be it reporting on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, or extreme climate events.”

NewsGuild also said the offer did not include any retroactive pay for the period since the last general wage increase in March 2020 and claimed the company had failed to schedule dates to move negotiations forward.

The day-long walkout came on the day of Thomson Reuters’ latest quarterly earnings call, in which revenues grew by 5% to $1.61bn and operating profit grew by 24% to $391m. Journalists were expected to hold rallies at seven Reuters bureaux: in Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Boston.

Reuters video reporter Julio-César Chávez said: “For the past two years we have been risking our lives, putting our physical safety and health on the line reporting the news that makes Reuters the best news agency in the world.

“While we reporters are called away from our families in the middle of dinner, something we gladly do for the job, Reuters executives sit in the comfort of their home offices managing the profits we bring in for the company. I’m walking out today because our work is what powers the success of Reuters, and we deserve to be compensated adequately for it.”

A Reuters spokesperson said: “Reuters is fully committed to constructive negotiations with the NewsGuild as we work towards a contract resolution for our U.S. union employees. These conversations are ongoing and we will continue to work with the Guild committee to settle on mutually agreeable terms.

“We have extensive contingency plans in place that will minimize this brief disruption and are confident that we will deliver the highest quality of service to all our customers”.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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