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Boston Globe employees union gives in, accepts paycuts to save struggling newspaper

Boston Globe employees union gives in, accepts paycuts to save struggling newspaper
In this May 5, 2009 file photo, Boston Globe delivery trucks sit parked at their printing plant in Billerica, Massachusetts. The price of Boston Globe is difficult to estimate, but the New York Times Co, the Globe's owner, could get more desperate to sell.

The Boston Globe’s largest union overwhelmingly approved a package of $10 million in wage and benefit cuts Monday night, ending more than three months of tense bargaining and brinksmanship, the newspaper reported

The Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents nearly 700 editorial, advertising and business office workers, became the last of the Globe's major unions to ratify sizeable financial and other concessions that the paper’s owner, the New York Times Company, said it needs to keep operating the 137-year-old paper. The Globe was projected to lose $85 million this year if significant cost reductions were not made, the company has said.

With a turnout of about 80 per cent, Guild members voted 366 to 179 to approve the contract, which includes pay cuts, furloughs, and unpaid vacation that reduces earnings by about 9 per cent; deep reductions in health and retirement benefits, including a pension freeze; and elimination of lifetime job guarantees for about 170 veteran employees.

‘‘I am pleased the Guild membership voted to ratify their new contract,’’ Globe publisher P Steven Ainsley wrote to employees. ‘‘I appreciate the personal sacrifices all Guild members are making, and I thank each one for their commitment to this institution.’’

Globe Editor Martin Baron in a note to newsroom staff wrote: "I know how stressful the past several months have been for all of you. Still, despite the pressures and the tension, you have never wavered in your commitment to deliver journalism of the highest caliber."

Guild president Daniel Totten said, ‘‘It has been a long and difficult period for everyone, and we hope that we can now work with prospective buyers to help the Boston Globe and to carry on with its vital mission to promote good journalism and protect free speech.’’

The Times Co has put the Globe and up for sale, and several potential bidders have emerged. However it's still unclear when and if New England's largest paper will be sold.

The Guild follows six other unions that recently ratified wage, benefit, and other concessions that totaled slightly more than $10 million. In April, the Times Co threatened to shutter the Globe unless it got a total of $20 million in union concessions.

The ratification of the Guild contract comes more than a month after members narrowly rejected a similar package by just 12 votes. After that vote, the Times Co imposed a 23 per cent pay cut on Guild members. The union responded by filing unfair-labour charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Both sides, however, returned to the table to negotiate for a new package. The key components demanded by the Times Co remained in place: $10 million in total savings, elimination of job guarantees, and a pension freeze. Union leaders, however, negotiated a lower base pay cut to 5.9 per cent from the initial 8.4 per cent in exchange for additional benefit cuts.

Guild members, meanwhile, have lived with the 23 per cent pay cut since June 14. In addition, members will be reimbursed for most of the difference between the lower and higher pay cuts, with the company making a one-time cut in its union healthcare contributions to cover the cost.

Still, the Globe’s future remains uncertain. The worst recession since the Great Depression has yet to end, and neither the Times Co. nor other newspaper owners have found a solution to the industry’s underlying problem: the migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet.

Date posted: July 21, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 273