Buzzfeed News staff in the US and Canada have revealed plans to unionise in the wake of large-scale cuts to the digital-only news publisher.
The company announced last month that it was cutting its workforce by 15 per cent worldwide, including 17 editorial roles in the UK alone.
US and Canadian staff organisers revealed their efforts to unionise in a letter shared online yesterday, raising concerns about benefits, “pay disparities” and the handling of job cuts.
Staff at Buzzfeed Germany also set up a “staff council” at the start of this month and will be involved in talks with the company, according to Buzzfeed Germany reporter Pascale Muller.
Buzzfeed UK voted against union recognition under the National Union of Journalists in July last year, with just four staff voting in favour.
In a statement demanding the company immediately recognise its union, the US Buzzfeed News union said: “Our staff has been organising for several months and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more.
“So we’re forming a union of US news employees with the Newsguild of New York, which represents other vanguard reporting outlets, including the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast, and Los Angeles Times.”
The union added that it “believed in this company” despite the fact it had “fucked up a few times”. It said it had been meeting for several years and had “ramped up” efforts to unionise before the latest job cuts.
The Buzzfeed Canada union said in a blog post that most of its ten staff had signed up for the Canadian Media Guild.
It reiterated some of the issues flagged by the US union, adding: “We also have serious concerns regarding contract and freelance work, as well as equal distribution of benefits.”
In a statement, Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said: “We look forward to meeting with the organisers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognising their union.”
Buzzfeed chief executive Jonah Peretti has previously said he didn’t think “a union is in the best interest of Buzzfeed or our employees”, claiming unions did not “reflect the fluid and flexible way we work”.
Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid