Friday, October 26, 2012

'Times' union stages 'informational' picket as incoming C.E.O. comes under scrutiny

By  Joe Pompeo

The fiery 20-month contract battle between unionized New York Times employees and company management appears to be getting hotter every day. 

Following a staff walkout several weeks ago, Times staffers are now planning to picket in front of the paper's 8th Avenue headquarters Wednesday afternoon, according to a press release distributed to the media this morning:

Employees of the New York Times will conduct and informational leafleting and picket in front of the Times Building today at 4 p.m. to continue to show solidarity in their fight to get fair wages and benefits from management. The two sides have been locked in a difficult contract negotiations, with the company still demanding large cuts to the staff’s wages and benefits.

Times staff will carry signs and pass out informational literature to other employees and  the public starting at 4 p.m. and continuing until 5:30. The event is only informational, and is not a job action or an attempt to stop employees from working. The union representing the Times staff, the NY Newspaper Guild, hopes they will raise awareness both inside the company and among the public about the state of negotiations.  

This latest event comes on the heels of several other demonstrations of solidarity among Times employees. The union also plans to launch a social media effort today to recruit the public in their cause.

That social media effort calls on staffers to spread the following tweet: "Retweet this to show support for @nytimes journalists & staff who are fighting wage and benefit cuts #saveourtimes," according to a memo posted on Jim Romenesko's blog.

The contract dispute, which recently entered mediation, is a double-whammy of bad P.R. for the Times Company, whose incoming chief executive, Mark Thompson, is coming under scrutiny for a scandal that was allegedly muzzled under his watch as C.E.O. of the BBC. The late former BBC host Jimmy Savile is alleged to have sexually abused underage girls during his time at the U.K. broadcast giant, and Thompson insists he was not involved in the canceling of a BBC-produced investigative report into the matter.

On Tuesday, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan called on the paper to "aggressively" cover Thompson's role in the BBC's "troubles," writing: "How likely is it that the Times Company will continue with its plan to bring Mr. Thompson on as chief executive?"