A week without The Times newspaper ended today when journalists striking for higher pay, for the first time since the paper was founded in 1785, accepted a new offer by management.
But even though reporters have agreed to return to work, the paper that long ago became a British institution is in deep financial trouble and experiencing a unprecedented run of bad relations between staff and management. "Basically we no longer trust the way The Times is being run," Michael Hatfield a member of the strike committee and a reporter with the paper for 14 years, said yesterday.
The Times lost an estimated $94 million during a nerve-fraying 11-month closure last year in an unsuccessful effort to force printers to accept computerized technology. With circulation now falling, senior executives predict a further loss of $23 million, forcing the paper to borrow heavily from its parent company, the Canada-based international Thomson organization. The Times made a profit before last year's closure.
The growing losses have put management's back against the wall. One senior executive threatened a possible permanent closure if this week's strike continued saying: "We cannot go on pouring money down the drain." The strike is estimated to have cost the paper $1.4 million
Thomson Newspapers Ltd. of Canada closed the century-old Ottawa Journal earlier this week after the paper lost $7.7 million over the last four years.
Management's determination combined with journalists' ill-feeling to trigger this week's strike, which embarrassed The Times, a paper that has prided itself on hiring top reporters personally dedicated to the paper.
After unsuccessful negotiations earlier this summer, journalists and management agreed to outside arbitration, which awarded the journalists a 21 percent pay increase. But management rejected the award, saying it was not legally bound by it and arguing that the paper could not afford more than a previously offered 18 percent raise.
The journalists accused management of "bad faith," arguing that there was a "moral obligation" to accept the arbitrator's decision. Although a determined minority refused, most of the journalists who are unionized voted to strike, a move that seemed to shock all sides.
The new pay offer that settled the strike today gives the journalists a 27 percent raise over 18 months instead of just a year, but the final proposal came only after long management board meetings.