Globe's publisher says a 23% pay cut looms if union rejects concessions
Gaining $10 million in savings from The Boston Globe’s largest union is ‘‘non-negotiable’’ and the company will take steps to immediately impose a 23 percent across-the-board wage cut should the union’s members reject a contract proposal to achieve those savings, Globe publisher P. Steven Ainsley said in a note to employees today.
The Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents more than 600 editorial, advertising and business office workers, votes Monday on a proposal that would slash pay by about 10 percent, cut health and retirement benefits, and eliminate lifetime job guarantees for veteran employees.
The savings sought from the Guild represent about half the concessions the Globe’s owner, The New York Times Co., says it needs from several unions to keep operating the money-losing newspaper.
‘‘We do not want to take this action,’’ Ainsley said of the 23 percent pay cut. ‘‘We feel the proposed contract you will soon vote on, as difficult as it may be, is a more manageable way for employees to absorb the compensation reductions.’’
Guild leaders have told the rank-and-file they would quickly launch legal challenges to block management from imposing such pay cuts.
"It's more of the same," said Daniel Totten, president of the Guild. "It's intimidation and bullying."
In a letter to members posted on the Guild website shortly before Ainsley’s memo was distributed, Totten blasted the Times Co. for ‘‘threats, bullying and negotiating at gunpoint.’’ Noting that other local media companies have imposed higher pay cuts on managers than on the rank-and-file, he sharply criticized Times Co. management for not sufficiently sharing the pain. For example, he said, nonunion managers received bonuses earlier this year, but most Guild members have gone four years without a pay raise.
‘‘That’s one way to cope with such a challenge — sharing the pain and being a true partner with workers,’’ Totten said. ‘‘It’s just not the Times Co.’s way. Instead, they have created fear among the rank and file, and displayed favor for special interests of management.’’
In today’s memo, Ainsley also addressed a recent petition by some Guild members that called on him to limit pay cuts to 5 percent, the same imposed on nonunion managers earlier this year. Ainsley said he couldn’t respond directly to that proposal because under the law, the company can only negotiate with the Guild’s official bargaining team.
But, he said, the Globe’s financial situation is too urgent to begin another round of negotiations. In addition, he said, the recent elimination of bonuses means that nonunion managers will see their total earnings cut by at least 15 percent over the next year.
Scott Allen, a reporter and one of the petition's organizers, said he wasn't surprised by Ainsley's response. Still, he said, the company has the power to change its contract offer, and the union, if necessary, could act quickly.
"We're not talking a complete rewrite of this proposal,'' Allen said. "We all know that we have to make sacrifices -- and soon -- so we don't need these constant threats to reach an agreement.
Ainsley’s memo, much of it presented in question-and-answer format, comes in the face of strong opposition to the proposal from many Guild members. Some Guild leaders, while not explicitly calling for rejection, have suggested that members vote against the package, in hopes of negotiating a better deal.
So far, five other unions have ratified contracts which together account for about $8 million in savings. A sixth union, which represents delivery truck drivers, votes Sunday on $2.5 million in concessions.
Under the agreements with other unions, the concessions won’t take effect unless the company gains $10 million in savings from the Guild, Ainsley said in the memo. ‘‘The Globe will have no alternative other than to take all steps necessary to implement a 23 percent wage cut for all Guild members immediately,’’ Ainsley said.
To read previous coverage of the situation facing The Boston Globe, click here.
(By Robert Gavin, Globe Staff)