The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged Nikkei, the Financial Times’ new owner, and the newspaper’s management to honour promises they made to their member union in the UK and Ireland, the National Union of Journalists, over maintaining pensions after they acquired the newspaper.
NUJ members in FT editorial voted on 9th October to ballot for industrial action over what journalists there are calling a "£4m pensions robbery" to pay for rent and other costs. Unite is also prepared to ballot members.
The NUJ will announce the result of the ballot on November 19th.
“The IFJ and its unions worldwide support the staff at the FT in their request that Nikkei treats them fairly and equitably. So far many of the promises made at the time of the sale by management have been shelved and Nikkei decided to worsen pension arrangements for 20% of the workforce on the final pay scheme including longstanding senior employees. Members in the defined contribution scheme have no guarantees their terms will be protected for the future. This is unacceptable,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
The 127-year-old Financial Times was acquired in July by Nikkei, the largest independent business media group in Asia, for £844m. Its operations owns media spanning from books and magazines to digital media, database services, broadcasting and events.
After the sale, Nikkei chairman Tsuneo Kita and president Naotoshi Okada gave assurances about the future of the FT to journalists in a letter stressing they will ensure complete editorial independence and freedom for the 580 editorial staff worldwide.
But weeks after the take over, Nikkei management reneged on promises of "fair and equivalent" arrangements and are failing to formally consult members of the company's Defined Contribution scheme about these changes.
This prompted an angry meeting of 300 staff to pass overwhelmingly a motion as follows:
“The FT chapel condemns Nikkei and FT managers for failing to honour promises made to maintain fair and equivalent terms of employment in the wake of the takeover.
"Proposals to take at least £4m a year from funds allocated to our pensions and use the money to pay rent and admin costs amount to no less than robbery.
"In light of the lack of compromise on this and the likelihood that the takeover will be complete by the end of November, we instruct NUJ reps to begin the process of balloting for industrial action.
"NUJ negotiators should insist as a minimum requirement that total FT contributions to employee pensions should remain the same under Nikkei as they are now.
"The FT chapel congratulates the pensions reps for their work so far in clarifying and working to improve the terms proposed for new pension schemes in the face of an absurdly short time frame.
"We urge reps to call on Nikkei and Pearson to find an alternative to management proposals to put FT staff into auto-enrolment pensions or into an unresolved DC scheme should negotiations not be complete when the deal is finalised."
“Nikkei must stick to their promise to invest in their staff who have put so much in the company and there is still time for Nikkei to dig themselves out of their hole. Should industrial action go ahead, the IFJ will mobilise all its member unions worldwide, in support of the FT employees, including its affiliates in Japan Minpororen, Shimbun Roren and Nipporo-Media Forum Japan,” added Boumelha.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This shabby treatment of staff is far from the behaviour we’d expect from a FTSE 100 company. It is vital that Nikkei now involves itself properly in this consultation process and demonstrates to FT staff that they will be treated fairly and equitably.”
One FT journalist at the meeting said that the attack on pensions could save Nikkei more than £140m on the purchase price (£844m) based on the multiple paid on last year's "adjusted operating profit" of £24m. The cut would effectively boost FT profits by one sixth overnight.
The union has posted on Twitter, @ftnuj, extracts from a document from showing the extent of the planned cuts.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries