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Washington Post staffers walk off jobs over looming layoffs

Employees of the Washington Post protest outside the company's offices in downtown Washington on Dec. 7, 2023. (Photo by AP)

The Washington Post staff members have walked off the job in a 24-hour strike, following the failure of 18 months of contract negotiations.

More than 750 staffers said Thursday they would refuse to work for 24 hours in the biggest labor protest at the media house in nearly 50 years.

“Because of our previous publisher's mismanagement, the company has tried to balance its books by laying off nearly 40 people in the last year,” the striking staffers announced in a letter.

The strike comes amid a tumultuous US media landscape, which has not spared the Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – one of the world’s richest men.

The Post employees have failed to reach a new deal over pay, remote work, and other conditions.

The protesters objected to a recent offer of cost-saving buyouts to staffers, saying the terms are stingy and that the voluntary packages are being coerced by a threat of layoffs.

“This is a declaration by hundreds of Washington Post staffers saying that if the company is to work with us fairly, it has to respect its employees,” said Sarah Kaplan, a climate reporter and steward for The Washington Post Guild.

Media reports show since reaching a high of three million subscribers during the tenure of former President Donald Trump, subscriptions of the newspaper have dropped to 2.5 million.

The Post said it “expanded somewhat too far and that it would be forced to cut back after optimistic financial projections failed to materialize.”

“The post is set to lose $100 million this year, the impetus for the buyout offers, which executives hope will result in 240 voluntary departures, or about 10 percent of the current staff. About half of those cuts would come from the newsroom.”

The industrial action at the Washington Post follows a strike earlier this year at America's largest newspaper publisher, Gannett. The New York Times staff also walked off the job in a 24-hour strike a year ago. Workers at the Associated Press staged a "short break" last month over their lack of contract.

The media industry saw some 17,500 job cuts in the first half of 2023 alone, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a human resources consultancy.

Over the past two decades, some 2,500 newspapers have shut altogether due in large part to the increasing influence of the internet.

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