Boston Globe management and the Boston Newspaper Guild resumed negotiations this evening so far apart that the company has proposed, with what it called its "last, best offer," to slash wages of Guild members by about 23 percent to gain the $10 million in concessions sought from the union, according to Guild and management representatives with knowledge of the negotiations.
Globe management presented that offer on Sunday, a move that could lay the groundwork for management to declare an impasse and unilaterally impose the draconian wage cuts, said Thomas Kohler, a Boston College law professor. Labor laws allow companies, under certain legal conditions, to impose the conditions of their last, best offers if an impasse is reached in negotiations.
Globe spokesman Robert Powers declined to comment. In a statement yesterday that announced agreements on financial and contract concessions with six other Globe unions, Powers said management was "evaluating our alternatives under both the Guild contract and applicable law to achieve as quickly as possible the workplace flexibility and remaining cost savings we need to help put The Globe on a sound financial footing."
Union officials could not immediately be reached for comment today.
The two sides convened to begin talks at about 5 p.m. in Weymouth, at the offices of the Labor Guild of the Archdiocese of Boston. A horde of print and broadcast media was camped outside.
The Guild, which represents more than 600 editorial, advertising and business office workers, is the only union that has yet to reach agreement on financial and contract concessions that the Globe's owner, the New York Times Co., says it needs to continue to operate the newspaper. The Globe is projected to lose $85 million without significant cost reductions, according to the Times Co., which has threatened to shutter the paper unless it gains the concessions.
The union on Sunday offered 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. The talks, however, have become deadlocked over the company's drive to eliminate life time job guarantees enjoyed by about 190 veteran Guild employees.
Declaring impasse would be a risky maneuver that could touch off a messy fight that could drag on for years in courts, at the National Labor Relations Board, and even in the streets, said Kohler. The Detroit newspapers strike of 1995 was touched off after management of the Detroit News and Detroit Free-Press declared impasse and imposed the conditions of the last contract offer.
The strike lasted for 19 months and court battles stretched into the next decade.
"Going to impasse is a high stakes game because the actual determination of impasse doesn't occur until after the fact," said Kohler. "It's very chancy."
Ultimately, the National Labor Relations and courts determine whether the legal requirements of impasse were met, said Kohler. The determination of impasse hinges on findings that both sides made earnest efforts to reach and agreement and negotiated in good faith, Kohler said.
The Guild contract doesn't expire until the end of the year, but it contains a provision to reopen negotiations on wages this year. (By Robert Gavin, Globe Staff)