Several big newspaper unions are negotiating new contracts, and with publishers strapped for cash amid declining advertising revenues, conflict is never far behind.
This week, union members at The New York Times clashed verbally with management after negotiations went sour, while the new owners of the Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes
ThePhiladelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, demanded major cost-cutting concessions from unions representing employees at those papers.
The NYT negotiations are merely the latest in a series of attempts to establish a new contract since the last one expired in March 2011. Union leaders, led by local Newspaper Guild president Bill O’Meara, are fighting to keep the company’s existing pension plan, including extending its benefits to new hires -- which management opposes.
The union also wants all employees
covered by a single contract, while management wants two separate contracts for print and digital employees. As always, there are disagreements about the size of future salary increases and bonuses;
here union leaders note that NYTCO has a cash stockpile of approximately $800 million.
In Philly, the local Newspaper Guild is facing demands for cuts totaling $28 million from Interstate General Media, the company formed by a group of local businessmen to take possession of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News in April.
“dire financial situation facing the company,” IGM is asking the union to negotiate a new contract now, although their current contract runs through October 2013. The Newspaper Guild has
deferred the request for the time being, by saying they will only agree to negotiations for a new contract if management can conclude new contracts with the nine other unions involved in producing and
distributing the papers.
The Philly papers were acquired by IGM from a group of hedge funds for $55 million in April -- the fourth transfer of ownership in six years, which also saw a Chapter 11 bankruptcy declaration followed by a protracted legal battle for control of the beleaguered newspapers. The latest sale price represents a steep decline from the $515 million paid by a group of local investors led by Brian Tierney in 2006.