Three months since its members began to strike, the HarperCollins union on Thursday reached a tentative agreement with the publishing company that includes an increase in minimum salaries across an array of jobs and a one-time bonus of $1,500 to union members.
The deal, facilitated by a federal mediator, comes after a protracted and public fight between the publisher and its unionized employees. It was agreed to by representatives of the union and the company, and must be ratified by union members. If approved, it will last through the end of 2025.
The HarperCollins union — which represents about 250 employees in editorial, publicity, sales, marketing, legal and design — has been negotiating for better family leave benefits, a stronger commitment from the company to diversifying its work force and higher pay. It asked that the company raise the minimum starting salary to $50,000, from $45,000.
The strike drew attention to the hurdles that many entry- and mid-level employees face across the publishing industry, which has traditionally been a business that attracts highly educated workers, but offers relatively low salaries, particularly for New York City, where the cost of living is high.
Most major publishing companies offer comparable starting salaries, and some have increased wages recently. This month, Macmillan said it would increase its entry-level base salary to $47,500, from $42,000, and Hachette Book Group announced that it raised entry-level salaries for employees who live in expensive locations to $47,500 a year, from $45,000, according to the industry website Publishers Marketplace.
HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp, is one of the five largest publishing companies in the United States, and has some 4,000 employees globally. While the strike didn’t have a significant impact on the company’s operations, it created a public relations headache. Striking workers picketed in front of the company’s headquarters and handed out fliers at industry events like the National Book Awards. Some literary agents and authors withheld submissions of new manuscripts to the publisher in a show of solidarity with striking workers.
The labor dispute also came at a challenging moment for HarperCollins and other big publishers, which saw profits soar during the pandemic but have recently faced a difficult economic climate, with inflation, higher supply-chain costs and a dip in print sales.
News Corp announced its earnings results on Thursday, with disappointing news for HarperCollins, whose revenue last quarter was down 14 percent from a year earlier. Its earnings were down 52 percent. In a memo to staff in January, Brian Murray, HarperCollins’s chief executive, announced that the company would reduce the size of its North American work force by 5 percent before the end of the fiscal year.
“We continue to find ourselves in uncertain and challenging times,” he said.