Controversial ‘Boston Globe’ Contract Offer Rejected By Guild

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By: Joe Strupp

A contract proposal at The Boston Globe that would have tied proposed salary increases to the paper’s revenue went down to defeat Wednesday, with members of the local Newspaper Guild rejecting the deal by a vote of 307 to 223, according to Guild President Daniel Totten.

Although the local has nearly 1,000 members, only 530 cast ballots, despite the unusual controversy surrounding the contract offer. “That turnout has been consistent with the last couple of elections,” said Totten. “I would love 100%, but I don’t think that is a realistic voting scenario.”

In addition to the salary link, the revenue provision was based only on revenue from the print newspaper, not from its Web site, the profitable boston.com. Guild members who opposed that restriction said it was unfair because the contract also included a new requirement for guild members to perform duties for the Web site.

The proposed contract, a four-year agreement retroactive to Jan. 1, 2006, was tentatively approved by union leaders last month, but required a full membership approval. The deal included a $600 lump sum payment on Jan. 1, 2007, with weekly salary hikes ranging from $7.50 to $8.50 every six months through 2008. But the agreement also stipulated that the wage increases would not be paid if Globe revenue for the period of the raise was less than the same period a year earlier.

The contract opposition by some guild members prompted a petition to both union and management negotiators, urging them to renegotiate the revenue/wage provision. Petition organizers claimed to have at least 200 of the paper’s 1,000 guild members as signers.

Today’s Globe included a statement from Totten, in which he said, “This contract illogically excluded revenue from Boston.com and that exclusion from the wage pattern, coupled with employees’ taking another exorbitant increase in their healthcare payments, was enough for a majority of our members to voice their opposition to yet another New York assault on the very employees who produce the excellent product The Boston Globe remains.”

Gregory L. Thornton, Globe senior vice president of employee relations, said in statement that he beleived the offer was fair. “This proposed agreement contained the exact same economic package as had been negotiated and ratified by several of our other major unions earlier this year,” Thornton said. “Economic conditions are at least as challenging now for the industry and the Globe as have existed for the last year.”

Neither Totten nor Al Larkin, Globe senior vice president, would comment immediately on what the rejection might mean to continued contract talks or the paper’s future labor situation.

The contract dispute comes just a year after The New York Times Company announced plans to eliminate some 500 jobs throughout the chain, including 35 in the Globe newsroom. The Globe later offered a buyout package that at least 30 staffers chose to take.

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