Some thoughts on the pay-cut program announced today by the New York Times Co., parent company of the Boston Globe:
--At the Globe, at least, management's push for a union pay cut isn't new. It was happening eight months ago. At the time, though, there was talk of a 10 percent reduction, twice what's being bandied about now.
--Back in July '08, people I spoke with at the Globe seemed to think the pay-cut proposal was just a ploy. Times Co.'s decision to unilaterally cut executive salaries 5 percent over the next nine months, in exchange for 10 extra days off, certainly suggests otherwise.
--The Times Co. memo in which the pay cuts were announced is a confusing piece of work. In one paragraph, pay cuts for everybody--union and non-union employees alike--are presented as a done deal:
The salaries of all employees at The New York Times Media Group (with the exception of the IHT, which is working on other cost reduction measures), The Boston Globe, Boston.com and Corporate in New York will be rolled back by 5%, starting this April, and these employees will receive 10 additional days off to use before the end of the year. [emph. added]
Just a paragraph earlier, though, pay cuts for union employees still seem to be hypothetical:
Given this economic outlook and the changes occurring in the media business, we, regrettably, must take even more steps to lower costs. We have been, and continue to, reorganize and reduce our staff, which means we are saying goodbye to many of our close colleagues. Now, in addition, we are lowering salaries through the end of this year for all remaining nonunion employees and, in exchange, providing additional time off. We plan to approach the Newspaper Guild in New York to ask for its participation in the program and to continue working with our unions in Boston and our other locations on lowering our costs, including wage reductions. [emph. added]
This is confusing for a couple reasons. Obviously, there's the the telling-v.-asking tension. But while the first paragraph cited above makes it sound like the same demands will be made of the Globe unions as everybody else, the second paragraph suggests that union employees in Boston and New York may actually be asked to do different things.
--Richard Perez-Pena, the NY Times reporter on the story, seems a bit befuddled, too. As he puts it in his write-up:
At The Times newspaper, the company will ask the Guild, which represents most newsroom employees, to accept the 5 percent cut and 10 days off voluntarily, and avoid possible layoffs. It is not clear how the moves will affect unionized employees at The Globe.