Laid-off employees of IBT Media — owners of Newsweek and the International Business Times — are speaking out against the company, claiming employees were let go with no warning and insufficient severance during major cuts to staff at the end of June.
The workers took to Twitter on Thursday under the hashtag #IBTWTF, after IBT Media denied a group request for better severance packages. Employees were offered one week of severance for every year at the company, with those employed any less than a year receiving nothing.
“We felt that the severance on offer was unacceptable,” Owen Davis, a former IBTimes finance writer, tells Folio:. “A lot of us put in long hours, and helped establish IBTimes as a more reputable brand and source of quality journalism.”
“After a pattern of what we felt was a lack of respect from the company, we decided that some of us were going to speak out and bring this to public attention,” Davis says. “It’s a definite issue in the industry and we wouldn’t like to see it again.”
Thirty-two people signed a letter dated July 22, which demanded that the company pay two weeks of severance for every year of service, plus one week to employees at the company for less than a year.
The letter also requested compensation for accrued paid time off. In the letter denying severance adjustments, an HR rep said that vacation pay was only given to IBT Media employees working in states, like California, that mandate such compensation.
Some of the signatories have since signed severance agreements, but others, like Davis, are holding out for better offers.
While severance was at the forefront of the conversation, other journalists chimed in with their experiences at IBT Media. Some international and freelance journalists claimed they haven’t been paid for the month of June, while another claimed unpaid invoices worth several thousand dollars.
IBT owes me several thousand dollars for two Newsweek stories I wrote. The refusal to pay despite my follow-ups is disgusting #IBTWTF
— ((RossKennethUrken)) (@RossKUrken) July 28, 2016
Others complained about a general lack of responsiveness from IBT Media. IBTimes changed HR managers in the days preceding the mass layoffs, leaving a new replacement to handle layoffs and severance concerns.
You know what's not fun? Spending two weeks unsure whether you have health care because the place that laid you off won't email back #IBTWTF
— Ned Resnikoff (@resnikoff) July 28, 2016
To that effect, IBT Media did not respond to multiple requests from Folio: for comment.
An estimated 50-plus people were laid off by IBT Media this year through layoffs in March and June. This included the elimination of the IBTimes Los Angeles Bureau, and the near elimination of the San Francisco office, which a source tells Folio: shrunk from six people to one person.
IBT Media announced at the end of June that the International Business Times will integrate with IBT's other brands, including Medical Daily, iDigitalTimes, Fashion Times, and the Latin Times. That entity will be led by International Business Times editor-in-chief Dayan Candappa.