This article is part of the most recent newsletter of the New York Newspaper Guild, a sister union of the Canadian Media Guild. It presents the clearest picture – so far, at least – of Reuters’ plans for its worldwide operations, as well as their impact on unionized employees. When “the Guild” is referenced in the article, the authors are referring to the NYNG.
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December 30, 2004
GUILD PROBES LATEST MOVE TO EXPORT EDITORIAL WORK
Consolidation and cost-cutting, not quality, seem to be the driving forces behind Editorial management’s latest plan to export U.S.-based work, the Guild has learned in its ongoing examination of the proposal.
The plan, which follows a management decision a few months ago to ship a dozen Guild-covered Editorial jobs from New York to Bangalore, India, could wipe out another 21 jobs that occupy half of one of the two newsroom floors in Washington. Targeted are the Online and Pictures Desks, Daybook and the Web Desk, whose non-Guild status is in dispute. Two New York-based jobs also are at risk.
Editorial bosses are also seeking to export 30 to 40 London-based jobs that are represented by the National Union of Journalists, whose members have voted their willingness to strike over job cuts if necessary.
“Right now, we’re trying to get as much information as possible about the proposals, their cost and potential impact on quality, so we can analyze it and decide how to respond,” said Guild Unit Chairman Peter Szekely. “The Partnership Committee process gives us the ability to offer alternatives to management’s proposals and that’s one of the things we’re considering.”
U.S. CAPTIONS FROM SINGAPORE
Under the management proposal, the Washington- and London-based Pictures Desks would move to Singapore, where a huge consolidated desk of lower paid employees would write captions and transmit pictures to clients all over the world. While the plan calls for the London and Washington desks to continue sending “regional” pictures to their clients, management said virtually all U.S. pictures are now sent globally. That means virtually all U.S. picture captions sent to U.S. clients, including pictures of American sports, would be written by Singapore staffers.
Managers said they plan to hire 24 desk editors in Singapore, plus six editors in charge. The Guild has learned that management is seeking entry-level employees for the jobs that pay $18,300 to $24,400 plus 15 percent in benefits for local hires and $36,600 to $42,700 plus 15 percent for ex-pats. They would work a 40-week and get no extra pay for overtime. The seven Washington Picture Desk staffers are paid at the Group 10J and 0 rates which range from $57,700 to $85,700 plus more than 20 percent for benefits.
Management said its plan, which would transfer operations at the end of the second quarter after a pilot period, is intended to increase the number of deskers and seek efficiencies in a consolidated operation, rather than save money. It projected the move would save more than $500,000 in 2006 after expansion costs of $287,000 in 2005.
In a meeting with managers, Guild officials and a Washington Pictures Desker expressed concern over the quality of U.S. picture captions written by staffers on the other side of the world and over their sensitivity to regional standards. In a Dec. 20 reply to Guild questions, Reuters Senior Legal Counsel Mitchell Boyarsky said, “There is no reason to believe that quality will suffer in anyway (sic) with a single (pictures) center.”
ONLINE DESK TO TORONTO?
Also targeted are six jobs on the Washington Online Desk, which selects Reuters news for various Web sites seen by American readers, as well as the London desk that produces U.K. Online. Both desks would be shipped to Toronto under the plan.
Although the Toronto jobs would be represented by the Canadian Media Guild, a sister local of the New York Guild, we have learned that management is seeking entry-level employees who would cost less than the six Washington Group 0 and 10J deskers.
Under the proposal, the consolidated Toronto-based Online Desk would begin operations in late April after a pilot period with 23 staffers, including 14 newly hired ones. Two New York-based jobs that handle “Top News” are also targeted.
At a meeting with managers on Dec. 22, Guild officials and an Online desker expressed concern that Canada-based staffers would be as ill-prepared to make judgments about news for U.S. consumption as U.S.-based staffers would be to judge news for Canadians. Moving the Online Desk also would upset a synergistic relationship that now exists with the Washington-based Americas Desk, the Guild said. In response, managers said the Toronto staffers could get reality checks by comparing their news judgments with those of Reuters’ competitors.
Also targeted is the Washington-based Multimedia, or Web Desk, whose five staffers pick and post the pictures that accompany the stories the Online Desk has selected for Web readers. Management is fighting the Guild’s current grievance that claims Web Deskers should be Guild-represented. Ironically, the Canadian replacements for this desk would be Guild-represented if it moves to Toronto.
Management has said it is also considering exporting to Bangalore the three jobs on the Washington-based Daybook, which produces listings of all hearings, press conferences and congressional, White House and judicial events. No time frame was given for this move, which management may be thinking.
?MOST LAUGHABLE IDEA’ YET
“We’ve seen Editorial managers give short shrift to quality in their spastic efforts to save a few bucks, but moving Daybook to Bangalore is the dumbest, most laughable idea they’ve come up with,” said Szekely. “The whole section of the Washington newsroom that houses Daybook and the Pictures, Online, Web and Americas Desks now work in perfect harmony. Only our managers would try to fix something that’s already perfect.”
The management proposals have left staffers on the targeted desk feeling anxious and uneasy during the holiday period. While it’s still too soon to know whether any jobs will be lost, it is important to remember that those who work on the targeted desks are not necessarily the ones at risk. If jobs are lost, the seniority of all Editorial Department employees in the affected job titles must be considered under our contract.
The Guild is challenging management’s transfer of U.S. corporate reporting work to Bangalore and sales administration work to another Reuters company in St. Louis.