Reuters' US scribes protest outsourcing to India

MUMBAI: The protest in the US against outsourcing is getting louder and angrier. A few days ago US employees of news organisation Reuters protested the outsourcing of editorial jobs to India.

Their union has begun its legal challenge to the company's attempt to cover Wall Street from Bangalore.

The Newspaper Guild of New York's charge is that offshoring US-based editorial jobs violates its contract with Reuters. The case will be heard before an independent arbitrator, whose decision is binding.

The case could take months to complete. As the lawyers square off, journalists and other employees picketed Reuters US headquarters in Times Square and other US bureaus at lunchtime. Their aim was to call attention to the dispute.

New York Guild president Barry Lipton says, "Instead of focusing on producing the highest quality news, Reuters is now focussed on producing the cheapest news. This change is not just bad for our members, it's bad for Reuters and its clients."

The Guild states that it had alerted Reuters managers last August that the exportation of jobs violated their contract. However, the London-based news and information company went ahead with its plans to expand its Bangalore-based editorial staff that was set up to write about American companies and other selected US financial news.

Lipton adds, "This is remote-control journalism, with low-paid reporters in India writing US news to US editors. It produces a cheaper product but adds no value to stories with reporting at the source." Although no Guild-covered employees have lost jobs to offshore outsourcing to date, that could change in a few weeks with the Reuters' plans to move other US-based editorial jobs to Canada and Singapore.

The exportation of New York-based reporting jobs to Bangalore comes just a few years after Reuters built its Times Square office tower and received millions of dollars in tax breaks by agreeing to retain and increase jobs in the city. The Guild and Reuters have been in contract negotiations for more than two years, with management seeking to slash healthcare coverage, retirement benefits and job security.

Reuters reporters in Bangalore are mostly responsible for extracting basic financial information from company news releases and quarterly earnings reports. Tasks like interviewing a company president, talking to analysts and covering breaking news, will continue to be done by more experienced journalists working in the countries where those companies operate.

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