Roughly 300 Reuters journalists based in the U.S. walked off the job Thursday morning as part of a 24-hour strike protesting stalled contract negotiations.
The strike, the first at Reuters in more than 30 years, coincided with the company’s second quarter earnings call, which revealed that total revenue was up 5% at $1.61 billion. CEO Steve Hasker told investors that the company was raising its total revenue forecast for the second quarter in a row to 6%, up from 5% at the beginning of the year.
Reuters’ news operations generated $188 million in revenue this quarter, up 9% compared to the same period last year. In addition to its news service, Reuters operates a number of tax and legal products, which contribute significantly to its revenue.
But journalists have not been able to benefit from that success, says Reuters Guild, a unit of the NewsGuild of New York. The union has been bargaining for a new contract since December 2020.
“There’s a lot of other news organizations — and I’ve worked at some — where it’s difficult financial times, and it’s a question of how to allocate sacrifice,” bargaining committee member Ross Kerber said. “This is just the opposite situation, and that’s behind a lot of frustration here.”
On Monday, the union filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the company has been stalling negotiations. The union says Reuters has refused to schedule any bargaining sessions this month despite the union proposing 15 bargaining dates.
One major point of contention has been wage increases. The union has proposed that members get an 8% increase in the first year, followed by 7% and 6% increases in subsequent years. The company’s proposal, however, only includes a guaranteed increase of 1%. That would effectively be a pay cut given rising inflation, the union says.
“Without a contract, there has been no guaranteed wage increase or general wage increase,” Kerber said. The last increase was in March 2020, when Reuters raised wages by 1% in addition to a guaranteed merit increase of 1%. “It’s been a real problem for a lot of people that this has dragged on at a time when inflation is costing our members. We’re standing still here while inflation is eating away at the effective pay that people are receiving.”
The union is also pushing for diversity initiatives and a ban on nondisclosure agreements in cases of harassment and discrimination.
A Reuters spokesperson told Poynter that the company is “fully committed” to negotiations with the NewsGuild and that the company has plans to minimize the strike’s impact.
“We have extensive contingency plans in place that will minimize this brief disruption and are confident that we will deliver the highest quality of service to all our customers,” the spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
During the earnings call, Reuters executives fielded a question about a possible recession and said that the company is confident in its 2023 goals and would be able to support its employees and customers through a downturn.
“Should we head into a recession, be it a deep one or a relatively shallow one, we view it as an opportunity — an unequivocal opportunity — to emerge stronger relative to our competitors,” Hasker said. “We have number one and number two positions in just about every market in which we operate, and we think a more difficult economic backdrop will provide us with an opportunity to further those leads.”
Reuters shares were trading at roughly $113 Thursday morning, continuing an upward trend since May.
Reuters journalists have scheduled rallies in New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Boston for Thursday. The next bargaining session is set for Sept. 8, but Kerber said the union is ready to head back into negotiations before then.
“We’re in this unique situation where the company is doing really well,” Kerber said. “It’s time for us to participate in that success.”