Globe Guild to vote on pay cut, end of job guarantees
The proposal that The Boston Globe's largest union will present to its members tomorrow calls for an 8.3 percent wage cut and an additional five-day unpaid furlough, according to a person briefed on the negotiations.
Together, the two measures amount to a roughly 10-percent wage cut for the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents more than 600 editorial, advertising, and business office employees.
Other provisions, according to another person briefed on the matter, included: a freeze in pension contributions for many employees, an end to 401(k) matching contributions, and an elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by 190 Guild members over the years in exchange for other concessions.
The proposal represents what is being described as the company's last offer, and the Guild has agreed to present the proposal to its members for a vote. The union leaders, while agreeing to put the offer to a vote, say they do not plan to recommend for or against its ratification. The terms of the offer have not been officially released, to allow the union time to brief its members on the details.
"We have a proposal to bring before members of The Boston Newspaper Guild," Guild president Daniel Totten said in a note to members e-mailed today. "Since each member is the final authority on contract matters, it is imperative that we bring a proposal forward that will ultimately be voted on by the entire membership."
Globe spokesman Robert Powers declined comment.
Early this morning, shortly after finishing a 10-hour negotiation session with Globe management, Totten said that “out of respect” for members, he would not be disclosing further details until a membership meeting scheduled for tomorrow.
“There is likely to be a lot of misinformation on this matter. I ask for your patience until we meet in person to discuss,” Totten wrote to the Guild membership.
“Please remain strong,” he added, “as we continue through this difficult period.”
But many Guild members today were unsatisfied with the lack of information, calling on Totten and other leaders to release more details and asking why they were being left in the dark about what they were being asked to give up.
“We’re a news organization, and it’s unbelievable that we have to wait so long for answers,” said David Abel, a reporter at the Globe for the past 10 years. “We think it’s only fair to learn about the agreement as soon as possible. There are a lot of jobs on the line, and a lot of anxiety.”
The understanding between the union and management came after a tense month of bargaining, after the The New York Times Co., the owner of the Globe, said it would shut the paper unless the Guild and other Globe unions agreed to $20 million in concessions by May 1.
Half of that was to come from Guild, the largest of the unions. The company was prepared to file an official 60-day plant closing notice with the state on Monday until Globe management struck deals with three of the paper’s four major unions early that morning.
In addition to agreeing to millions of dollars in financial concessions, unions representing press operators and mailers also agreed to change language governing lifetime job guarantees.
The other major unions came to agreement after high-pressure talks on Sunday night and early Monday morning. Those agreements are still subject to ratification by members. But the Guild left the bargaining site in Weymouth without a tentative agreement.
Entering last night's bargaining the session the Guild and management were far apart on terms. The company on Sunday had proposed what it called its ‘‘last, best offer,’’ deeply slashing wages of guild members by 23 percent to gain the $10 million in concessions, according to union and management representatives with knowledge of the negotiations.
Labor laws allow companies, under certain legal conditions, to impose the terms of their last, best offer if an impasse is reached in negotiations.
The union on Sunday had countered with a proposal that provided, by the union’s reckoning, slightly more than $10 million in savings, but management negotiators rejected it.
The proposal included a wide range of cuts in pay and benefits, including a 3.5 percent wage reduction for most members, pension cutbacks, and a lengthening of the workweek from 37.5 to 40 hours.
The talks, however, have become deadlocked over the company’s drive to eliminate lifetime job guarantees for about 190 guild employees.
(By Keith O'Brien and Robert Gavin, Globe staff)