By Robert Gavin and Robert Weisman, Globe Staff
The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut the Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said.
Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90- minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper's 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts, the end of pension contributions by the company and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some veteran employees, said Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's biggest union, which represents more than 700 editorial, advertising and business office employees.
The concessions will be negotiated individually with each of the unions, said Totten and Ralph Giallanella, secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters Local 259, which represents about 200 drivers who deliver the newspaper.
"We all know the newspaper industry is going through great transition and loss," said Giallanella. "The ad revenues have fallen off the cliff. Just based on everything that's going on around the country, they're serious."
Catherine Mathis, a Times Co. spokeswoman, declined to comment. Globe publisher P. Steven Ainsley also declined to comment.
The newspaper industry, which had already been struggling as readers and advertisers moved to the Internet, has been hard hit by the recession, and the Globe is no exception. The newspaper's advertising revenues have declined sharply in recent years; once robustly profitable, it is now losing money.
Several major newspaper companies have filed for bankruptcy in recent months, and several have threatened to shut down operations unless they got major concessions from workers. Hearst Corp. of New York in February threatened to shut or sell the San Francisco Chronicle if it could not cut costs. Hearst recently shut down the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after it failed to find a buyer, and Scripps Co. shuttered the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
Earlier this week, the Globe newsroom completed cutting the equivalent of 50 full-time jobs. But the deteriorating economy has made the paper's financial outlook much worse. Management told union leaders Thursday that the Globe will lose $85 million in 2009, unless serious cutbacks are made, according to a Globe employee briefed on the discussions. Last year the paper lost an estimated $50 million, the employee said.
The Times Co. is seeking concessions from the union because the New York company, which is also suffering from the recession, can no longer subsidize the Globe's losses, said the Globe employee who requested anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly. The Times Co. posted a net loss of $57.8 million in 2008.