Fading magazine empire Time Inc. is currently trying to negotiate a new contract with the Newspaper Guild, a union that represents several hundred of the company's editorial employees. Time Inc. would like the right to eliminate most of their jobs.
It is useful to contemplate how far Time Inc. has fallen in just the past decade or so. A once-great publishing empire with titles like People and Sports Illustrated and Time and Fortune is now just struggling for relevance (and dollars) as the media world changes around it. Last month, we reported on a much-derided internal SI spreadsheet that graded editorial employees for layoffs based upon categories including how "beneficial to advertiser relationships" their "content" was. That was bad in a mostly symbolic way. Now, the union tells us about a contract provision that could be catastrophic to writers in a very real way.
It is generally terrifying to be an editorial employee of a magazine company in 2014. When you see actual numbers on how doomed the future of your job could be, it is specifically terrifying. In the current Time Inc. negotiations with the Guild, this is what the company proposed in the "Subcontracting" portion of the contract—that is, this is what it wants to reserve the right to do to the jobs of these union members:
This means that Time Inc. wants the right to subcontract—or even to outsource overseas, which the company has plainly stated as one of its business strategies—a full 60% of the jobs of these employees. That is most of them! And that is what they want to afford to the minority of their editorial employees who do have the protection of a union. This is not some sort of hidden scandal so much as it is a stark statement of just how committed one of America's most prestigious magazine companies is to eliminating "full time jobs" as a category under its corporate umbrella.
Subcontracting is the new being on staff.
Anthony Napoli, a Guild representative for Time Inc. employees, points out that it is not just the full time employees who have something to worry about—the proposed language would also give Time Inc. the right to outsource any temporary positions. So all part-time employees currently working for Time Inc. titles should consider their jobs threatened in a very real sense. "If you combine the two proposals the real percentage of jobs they would be allowed to subcontract would be more like 70-75% of all employees represented by the Guild," Napoli told us. "Given the fact we represent copy editors, writers, photographers, researchers, imaging specialist, print production employees among others I think it safe to assume any and all of these jobs would be impacted by subcontracting."
How willing would Time Inc. be to exercise the right to eliminate these jobs? And how soon? And where would they go? And if this is what union members get, how worried should the thousands of non-union Time Inc. employees be? We asked Time Inc. Their spokesperson, Teri Everett, told us: "we are not going to negotiate in the press."