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Financial Times journalists move closer to work action
It didn’t take long for the ink to dry on a relatively rich Financial Times buy-out offer before the new owner decided to adjust the employee benefits.
Nikkei doesn’t finalize the purchase of the Financial Times until February, but it got to work on one issue very quickly
When news broke on July 23 that Nikkei purchased what is arguably one of the jewels of business journalism, paying £844m or near $1.3 billion, media watchers considered that the Washington Post sold to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million and they wondered if a successful media business model might be changed.
That answer came even before the deal to acquire the firm was finalized. The acquisition of the FT Group doesn’t close until November, but Nikkei was quick to begin work to adjust its compensation model for those that create and control the quality of the product: journalists. Planned changes to newspaper’s pension policy was an initial target in the wake of the record setting purchase price for the previously independently operated business publication.
Financial Times union categorizes quick pension moves as “robbery” as journalists authorize step towards industrial action
Journalists are striking back at the action, which FT management has downplayed as not impacting compensation. But categorizing the move “pension robbery,” the National Union of Journalists apparently disagreed. They organized FT employees who voted to instruct NUJ representatives to begin the process of balloting for industrial action which could result in a work action or potential disruption. The dispute in the press room appears to have gotten volatile.
“Staff are in open revolt over plans to cut the cost of pensions,” Steve Bird, FT’s NUJ chapel, told theGuardian. “Hundreds of senior staff will see their pensions cut by up to a half in order to pay rent on the FT building,” indicating a new cost sharing structure. “Whatever financial constraints Nikkei have placed on the FT are being passed on to journalists.”
Bird and the NUJ worked to pass a motion condemning Nikkei and FT management for “failing to honor promises” and maintain equivalent terms of employment following the takeover, the Guardian report said. Bird, who manages the union’s response to the situation, had expressed concern when the deal was first announced.
“The FT chapel will do whatever it takes to protect jobs, employee rights and independent, quality journalism,” he said on the day the deal was announced, his fears materializing sooner rather than later. “We were all very concerned at the speed at which the deal seems to have been made. The chapel is now considering putting together a charter setting out our principles on editorial independence and working practices.”
FT management gets wordy in acknowledging they are considering pension changes, but says it is not a cost cutting effort
FT management has a different version of events. In what the Guardian described as “a lengthy statement,” odd for a business that often generates success through succinct prose, management termed the union’s claims that the new pension plan is a cost-cutting measure as “categorically untrue.”
“It has never been the objective of FT management or Nikkei to cut costs through pension changes,” an FT spokeswoman told the Guardian. “This proposal is about supporting the long-term strength and sustainability of the FT, and building a consistent and fair scheme for all o