Labor union accuses Thomson Reuters of illegal pay cuts; company says it’s guaranteeing raises

Friday, February 5, 2010

Union accuses Thomson Reuters of illegal pay cuts

NEW YORK — A labor union has filed a complaint against Thomson Reuters Corp. alleging the financial information and news service is illegally imposing pay cuts and restricting what workers can write on their Twitter accounts.

In a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the Newspaper Guild of New York charges that Thomson Reuters plans to cut wages of reporters and other employees by an average of 10 percent this year without the union’s consent.

Thomson Reuters disputed the figure Friday, saying it is guaranteeing a 0.5 percent salary increase for the more than 400 U.S. journalists represented by the union at its Reuters News service. Some will get bigger raises, based on how well they do their jobs, Thomson Reuters said in a statement Friday.

“We believe such a system is fairer than a lockstep system and is essential for Reuters’ future,” the company said.

The conflicting figures provided by the union and Thomson Reuters’ management reflect the acrimony underlying their talks on a new contract.

The union’s complaint alleges Thomson Reuters improperly declared an impasse in the negotiations last month.

Other media companies, mostly newspapers, have been lowering wages and requiring unpaid furloughs during the past year as a severe advertising slump dried up their main source of revenue.

The Newspaper Guild contends Reuters hasn’t been hit as hard because it isn’t as dependent on advertising as newspapers.

“If a healthy company like Thomson Reuters … cuts pay, it will cause less healthy news organizations to cut even more, and pretty soon many of the journalists our democracy depends on won’t be able to afford to stay in business,” said Bill O’Meara, president of the New York Guild.

The complaint also alleges that Thomson Reuters hasn’t followed proper procedures for drawing up its policy governing its employees’ use of Twitter, a popular online tool for broadcasting messages of up to 140 characters.

Thomson Reuters bars its workers for posting anything “that would damage the reputation of Reuters News or Thomson Reuters.”

The union said the policy was recently cited when a Reuters reporter tweeted: “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.”

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