Pity the staff at Bauer. They used to have parties and gift hampers. But since German magazine company Bauer took over what used to be the Packer magazine empire (many have mused it overpaid for the privilege), things have been, well, noticeably more frugal.
That frugality has extended to enterprise bargaining negotiations, where Bauer has presented its latest offer to staff. The journalists’ union, as unions tend to do, wants a guarantee of pay rises to match inflation along with a range of other benefits. Bauer however, in a proposal to staff sent out yesterday, isn’t lavishing anyone with goodies.
Its counter proposal, obtained by Crikey, highlights the difficult times faced by the magazine industry in recent years. “Circulation and advertising revenue have significantly reduced and continue to fall, and unfortunately we expect this trend to continue. With revenue in decline, Bauer has been working hard to manage its costs.”
Bauer’s proposal also cites “a significant number of new entrants to the print and digital media market,” many who are digital-only and thus operate with “lower costs bases than Bauer”. Many of these, Bauer notes, are operating on award wages, which are “much less generous” than those provided by the current agreement.
So, what’s Bauer proposing? A 1% guaranteed rise in pay rates, to cover inflation. It’s also proposing a 2% increase to the wages pool each year, to be divided up by managers based on merit. Staff aren’t impressed, with one telling Crikey the merit-pay proposal is “laughable”. “Bauer will retain discretion about allocation. Call me cynical, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it decided in years 2015 and 2016 that no-one was performing good enough so no pay increases would be allocated. Great way to save money and screw us over at the same time.”
“There have been no pay increases since 2012. Our pay has already been going backwards, and now Bauer proposes to pay us even less in real terms.” This staffer also drew our attention to schedule 6.4 of the offer, where Bauer admits a “minor error” where it hasn’t been adjusting some allowances since 2011, as it was required to do under the current agreement. “Bauer will be emailing affected editorial staff in relation to this issue and will pay any outstanding amounts to affected staff,” the proposal states.
Staff at Bauer shouldn’t expect a radical change from incoming CEO David Goodchild, who is to replace Matt Stanton after he resigned last week. Goodchild is a Bauer lifer who joined the company in the UK out of university, and has been with it ever since, being promoted to lead the UK operation in 2004. In keeping with true Bauer style, a Factiva search could find only a handful of interviews he’d given in his role as head of the British arm, despite his long tenure. — Myriam Robin
Fairfax AGM a rather cordial affair. A gaggle of protesters against the Fin’s one-sided divestment coverage provided the only real controversy at the Fairfax annual general meeting this morning. But even they were, well, rather respectable. In a bid to appeal to the corporate crowd, they’d dressed like Jehovah’s Witnesses (collared shirts, dress pants), but could prompt few Fairfax shareholders to sample the mock protest-newspapers they were giving away. “At least the journalists are interested,” one mused to us.
It was, in all, a sparsely attended AGM, where no-one said anything awfully mean about anyone. Even chair Roger Corbett was rather nice to Stephen Mayne, in a damned-with-faint-praise sort of way, saying he respected the shareholder activist (and Crikey founder) and had no doubt he’d have a useful contribution to make on Australian corporate boards “some day”. Mayne’s bid to join the Fairfax board had failed before he even stepped into the room, gaining no support from the company’s large shareholders (who vote by proxy and rarely attend the actual AGM). Just 0.92% were in favour, despite the crowd giving him a hearty round of applause after he made his pitch.
The easiest director election went to investment banker Peter Young — 99% in favour. Corbett was also re-elected — 94% in favour — despite his earlier confirmation to the room that he intended to step down this term. “Until the day I retire, I will be an active and vigorous chairman,” he said.
More contentious, for a board-supported election, was that of ad-man Todd Sampson, who stood out at the end of the director’s table by wearing a T-shirt. He secured 80.33% of the vote despite both Corbett and Mayne speaking in his favour. Mayne would later muse that Gina Rinehart must have voted against Sampson because of his support for Earth Hour (proxy votes are confidential — but it’s a good guess). Crikey looked but couldn’t spot Rinehart or any of her representatives, and so couldn’t ask ourselves.
The company’s remuneration report — a contentious topic among the nation’s journalists for giving four executives a $2.4 million pay hike — passed with little contention. The Australian Shareholder’s Association even spoke in favour, saying it aligned well with shareholder interest. No mention was made of CEO Greg Hywood’s new blue Maserati Ghibli. It didn’t matter as much to this crowd.
The company’s constant cost-cutting did warrant a mention from Mayne, and Hywood and Corbett saying they were aware of community concerns. But survival as a company requires deep cuts, Corbett said. Hywood expanded on the topic by pointing out some of the positives. Cost-pressures have allowed Fairfax to modernise, by doing things like centralising subediting that have cut costs. Reader numbers show the papers have never been “more readable”. And change has allowed young people in Fairfax to take on roles previously reserved for only those of his generation, Hywood said.
A critical question by Mayne (who really asked all the questions) on whether some board members had any plan to increase their meagre shareholdings in the company was brushed away by Corbett, who said the board had minimum preferences for shareholdings that all board directors currently met. Anything else, he said, was a personal investment decision. — Myriam Robin
SBS streams live Feed. SBS 2 has embraced the blossoming trend of online streaming this week, allowing Australians to watch news and current affairs show The Feed online simultaneously with its regular terrestrial broadcast. While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, SBS warned TV Tonight that the process might not be a smooth one.
“It’s early days of the online streaming so we are softly launching this while we perfect the technology,” said a spokesperson.
The Feed is aimed at a younger audience than fellow-streamer ABC News 24 — something that no doubt influenced the decision, as younger generations move steadily away from the living room idiot box to get their fill of content.
As a tribute to The Feed’s own regular haiku-news segment, Crikey has chosen to sum up the consequences of this trend in verse.
as a gentle stream
carries away its viewers
Pay TV flounders
— Paul Millar
Front page of the day. Today’s prize goes to The Gladstone Observer for making our lives that little bit brighter. Shine on, you crazy Ruby.