When Is a Contract Not a Commitment?


For most of us, integrity means that when we give our word on something, we intend to keep it. It’s a core value of the Reuters Trust Principles – integrity, independence and freedom from bias – that we can safely say most Reuters journalists embrace instinctively. Members of the Guild bargaining committee have certainly kept this in mind during the three years of trying to negotiate a new contract.

So, one might ask, why is it that management, despite committing to rules governing its relationship with Guild employees, repeatedly ignores absolutely clear language limiting what it can do?  A case in point: The agreement signed in July, 2011 and still in effect states clearly in its first article, that “Each Editor-in-Charge (EIC) and Assistant Picture Editor may perform bargaining unit work…” The right to do Guild work was also extended to the Picture Editor and Bureau Chiefs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington via Sideletter #8.

Nonetheless, Reuters’ bureau chiefs in Detroit and Boston – the latter with “EIC” conveniently and recently added to his title, routinely perform Guild work. Former Managing Editor Paul Ingrassia, when “covering” the auto industry, and Reuters Editor-In-Chief Steve Adler, who regularly reminds employees of the importance of adhering to the Trust Principles, have also ignored Article 1, Section 6 (a) of the CBA. Adler has participated in and taken bylines on interviews with Donald Trump, the presidents of Iran and Turkey, and others. The Guild has filed grievances in all these cases.

Last week, however, Adler, along with Americas Editor Kevin Krolicki and Chicago Bureau Chief David Greising, joined Guild member Dave McKinney in an interview with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. To their credit, even though Greising technically could have claimed a byline on the story, all three executives deferred to McKinney.

Well done, gentlemen.

Could this be a turning point in management’s approach to editors doing the work of Guild members? Could it serve as an example of a new approach under what management’s mouthpiece at the negotiating table, Jonathan Leff, has referred to as editors “leading from the front?” We tend to doubt that’s what Leff meant, as he often competed with his own staff and hogged bylines in his previous position as commodities and energy EIC.

The Guild certainly would welcome editors focusing on facilitating the work of Guild reporters, photo and video staff and desk editors, instead of competing with their employees and big-footing themselves into our work. We’ve heard too many complaints from members, especially reporters, whose work is impeded while their EICs are busy researching and writing their own pieces.

Why is this so critical? Aside from the aforementioned integrity and commitment to adhere to an agreement, which is not insignificant, those clauses in the contract are important because their goal is to protect Guild members from being pushed out of their jobs by their own managers. That’s why the bargaining committee is adamantly against management’s push to broaden the language and allow managers unfettered freedom to do our work.

The Guild has no interest in rewarding management for years of broken commitments.

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