More than 1,300 New York Times staffers are refusing to comply with the company’s return-to-office plan that took effect Monday.
The exact number — 1,316 Times staffers — includes journalists, tech workers and members of a sister publication who signed a pledge that they would continue to work remotely rather than return to the office for a minimum of three days a week, as suggested by management.
The workers say a return to the office would take a bite out of already inflation-strained household budgets and should be negotiated in ongoing labor talks with their union.
The union has threatened a strike unless wage-increase demands are met.
Tom Coffey, an editor who serves on the News Guild union’s Contract Action Committee, told the New York Post that pushing for a return to the workplace when inflation is affecting food and gas prices has made people “livid.”
A Times spokesperson told multiple outlets that the suggested three-day minimum for onsite work is not mandatory and that executives would trust each department to determine what works best for their staffers.
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Times employees were offered a 4% pay increase during their most recent bargaining session last month. The union, meanwhile, is seeking an 8% raise and a 5.25% cost-of-living increase, as well as no mandatory return-to-office plan taking effect until July 2023.
But Mr. Coffey said that the proposed 4% increase would be reduced for members who received merit-based pay increases over the past two years, adding that “with no salary increase, it amounts to a de facto pay cut.”
The most recent wage hike took place in March 2020, according to the Post.
In email blasts to Times’ brass, including publisher A.G. Sulzberger and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien, some staffers pointed out the sizable raises handed out to the company’s top executives.
For example, Ms. Kopit Levien went from earning $4.4 million in 2020 to $5.8 million in 2021. Mr. Sulzberger made $2.4 million in 2020; a year later, he would earn $3.6 million.
“We respect the rights of our colleagues in the Guild to make their voices heard,” a Times spokesperson told the Post. “We’re actively working with the NYT NewsGuild to reach a collective bargaining agreement that financially rewards our journalists for their contributions to the success of The Times, is fiscally responsible as the company remains in a growth mode, and continues to take into account the industry landscape.”
The spokesperson went on to say that the Times management proposed wage increases of 10% over the remaining two-and-a-half years of the new contract (the previous contract ended in March 2021).
Senior Staff Editor Andrea Zagata told Fortune that the 10% raise is not as significant as it looks since it is calculated using a base salary. She cited a document published by the union to support her claim.
The next negotiating session will take place Wednesday.