Boston Globe to resume union-concession talks

Tue May 5, 2009 8:34pm BST

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* Talks to resume at 5 p.m.

* Sticking points include lifetime job guarantees

* Newspaper Guild is final holdout in negotiations

By Jason Szep

BOSTON, May 5 (Reuters) - The Boston Globe's biggest union will resume contract-concession talks on Tuesday evening with the paper's owner, the New York Times Co (NYT.N), which has threatened to shut the money-losing broadsheet.

The Times Co, which bought the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993, threatened in early April to close the 137-year-old newspaper unless its unions agree to $20 million of concessions to staunch $85 million of projected losses this year.

Six of the seven unions representing employees of the Globe have now reached tentative agreements. Talks with the lone hold-out, the Boston Newspaper Guild, are scheduled to resume at 5 p.m., said Globe spokesman Robert Powers.

The future of New England's largest newspaper has been in doubt during a month of negotiations that have stumbled over the contentious issue of lifetime job guarantees enjoyed by about 190 members of the Guild.

The Guild, representing some 600 workers including the newsroom staff, has sought to preserve lifetime job guarantees, saying their elimination would pave the way for layoffs of some of the paper's highest-paid veteran staff.

Powers said lifetime job guarantees were a big part of the talks but not the only outstanding issue. "I wouldn't characterize them as the only challenge, but they are a significant part of the negotiations."

The guarantees date to a contract ratified in 1994 after the Times bought the Globe.

At the time, the Newspaper Guild gave up a no-layoff clause and made other concessions in exchange for job guarantees for members hired before 1992, who would otherwise have lost the no-layoff protection, Powers said.

The Times Co extended lifetime job guarantees in 1999 to 55 more Guild workers in exchange for additional concessions, according to a Boston Globe report.

LAST OFFER REJECTED

The Globe is one of the nation's most acclaimed regional newspapers, a winner of 20 Pulitzer Prizes that dominates news coverage in the six-state New England region, but the paper's circulation has dropped steeply as readers go online for news.

The Globe's average weekday circulation, for example, fell 14 percent to 302,638 for the six months to March 31 from a year earlier, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Many U.S. newspapers including the Globe have lost 20 percent or more of their advertising revenue as circulation shrinks.

Some industry watchers say negotiations for a buyer could begin if the Times Co wins the concessions it seeks.

Management rejected the Newspaper Guild's last offer, which included a 3.5 percent pay cut for most employees, an unpaid furlough, an increase in the early retirement age and a reduction in pension and 401(k) contributions.

The Globe's projected red ink, which follows losses of $50 million last year, comes at a difficult time for its New York owner, which ended 2008 with $1.1 billion of debt and recently reported a first-quarter net loss of $74.5 million.

When the Times bought the Globe, it was one of the nation's most profitable newspapers. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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