NPR, union agree to cuts to employee pay, benefits

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April Simpson/Current

NPR has moved to temporarily reduce employee compensation as management cut spending in response to a projected budget deficit. 

Under an agreement ratified by members of NPR’s SAG-AFTRA union, management will reduce employee pay on a sliding scale beginning next week, with a maximum cut of 9%. There will be no change in pay for employees earning less than $80,000. NPR is also ending contributions to the NPR employee retirement plan. The cuts will last through NPR’s fiscal year, which ends in September.

“Obviously, nobody likes to lose pay, but we recognize that these are extraordinary circumstances,” Richard Harris, a union shop steward and science correspondent, told Current. “And we’re stepping up to help.”

NPR took steps last month to manage a growing budget deficit caused by the coronavirus pandemic. CEO John Lansing cut his pay by 25% for the remainder of the fiscal year. Members of NPR’s executive committee took a 15% pay reduction, and other VPs received a 10% cut. NPR also eliminated executive bonuses for the fiscal year.

In its agreement with SAG-AFTRA, NPR agreed not to lay off employees for financial reasons through this fiscal year, Harris said. The agreement includes optional furloughs for those employees who choose to take a week off without pay.

If NPR’s budget problems continue, “it’s highly likely that we will be back in September talking to the company about next steps,” he said.

“NPR executives have already led the way in taking pay cuts, now NPR staff are also going to take compensation and benefit reductions for the rest of this fiscal year,” according to an NPR statement. “This approach is the result of our best thinking and collaboration with our union representatives and our non union staff.”

NPR’s SAG-AFTRA members voted last month to extend their bargaining unit’s contract by one year. The agreement, which was to expire this summer, will now lapse in July 2021.

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