From the Daily News | Thomson Reuters’ work-to-rule action gives employees longer breaks amid slow contract talks
The following was originally published on the Daily News' website:
A work-to-rule action at Thomson Reuters on Monday translated into a rare experience for the company’s journalists: An hour-long lunch.
Entire desks across Reuters’ busy newsrooms took breaks at their appointed times on Monday, and made sure to clock out exactly at the end of each shift.
The work-to-rule action grew out of employee dissatisfaction with the slow pace of contract talks between Reuters and The NewsGuild of New York, said union representative Susan DeCarava.
“There’s a very robust network of activists in our Thomson Reuters shop ... the idea came out of different members contacting The Guild and asking what they can do,” DeCarava said.
No end date has been set for the work-to-rule action, she said.
The NewsGuild and Reuters have been stuck in contract talks for three and 1/2 years — and on Tuesday will sit down for a second time with a federal mediator.
“I think this has to continue until we get a decent contract,” said Dan Grebler, a desk editor at Thomson Reuters and chair of the company’s NewsGuild unit.
Grebler said it was a novel experience for many Reuters journalists to walk away from their desks for an hour to eat lunch.
On a normal day, they might take 10 minutes to grab something to eat while working, he said.
“My understanding is that on one desk in particular, they all went out for the whole hour, and their shop steward told me they were quite thankful for The Guild declaring the work-to-rule, because that’s not how they’ve been working,” Grebler said.
Contract talks with Reuters, which took in $348 million in earnings in the last quarter, have stalled on the issue of annual cost-of-living raises, according The Guild.
The company’s offers of a 1 to 1.5% increase a year barely hold up to inflation, DeCarava pointed out.
Reuters also wants to implement “merit-based” wage increases set and doled out at management discretion, The Guild said.
Frustration is part of what prompted workers to engage in a work-to-rule slowdown, she added.
“People are working in strict adherence to the prior contract that remains in effect while we negotiate a new one,” she said.
That means no more staying late, working through breaks and taking calls on weekends, all for free, DeCarava said.
"These are dedicated journalists and Reuters is making a big profit off their work," she said.
A spokeswoman for Reuters did not immediately return an email for comment.
In D.C., many Reuters staff consider the work-to-rule action a necessary sacrifice, said Kia Johnson, a producer and NewsGuild shop steward.
“It’s a very intense news cycle [and] .... so many in our newsrooms are dedicated to responding to their phones and emails and honing their sources ... it’s just hard not to be available all the time,” Johnson noted.
But the first day went as planned, she added.
“Everybody seems to be on board,” she said.
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