Guild Hits NYT Co. Over Outsourcing and Benefits Cuts

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By: E&P Staff

When The New England Media Group said yesterday it aimed to cut 125 jobs at the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, via buyouts, it explained that 55 of them would not really go away — they would be outsourced to outside contractors.

This didn’t go down real well with the Boston Newspaper Guild.

Dan Totten, president of the Guild, denounced the outsourcing initiative as “corporate greed at its worst,” as he was quoted in the Boston Globe.

“Outsourcing efforts by The New York Times [Co.] on our beloved Boston Globe shows a lack of respect for the quality, dedication, and work ethic that Boston Newspaper Guild members have brought to their Globe jobs,” Totten said.

Meanwhile, the Guild in New York is tussling with the Times Co. over what it calls “retrogressions” in health insurance and pensions. It will meet again today with the company to negotiate, charging that the Times wants to “gut” their contract in these areas.

What follows are two memos, each first posted today at the Romenesko site.

The first comes from Totten at the Boston guild, the second an unsigned update from a New York guild member.

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Earlier today, Boston Globe representatives of the New York Times Co. met with executive committee members of the Boston Newspaper Guild — confirming plans for a new round of employee buyouts and job outsourcing.

Rather than leading our industry by example and competing vigorously with a creative business plan, New York has chosen to reduce staff and outsource in order to go along with the status quo. These actions are repulsive given the fact that the New York Times preaches ethics at every turn, and routinely lectures the nation on how to treat working Americans.

Once again, the Times Co. is standing true to a “Do as we say, not as we do” mentality. While the Boston Newspaper Guild recognizes a decline in revenue at the Boston Globe and throughout the industry, we disagree with the methods that New York employs to combat these circumstances.

Today’s announcement is an example of corporate greed at its worst. Members of the BNG have produced the finest quality newspaper for over 125 years at The Boston Globe. They deserve better than a shove out the door while their jobs are outsourced, and while the quality commitment from New York to Boston erodes further.

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“Don?t get sick, don?t get old, don’t work here anymore.” That’s the reaction one member of the Guild healthcare bargaining committee had after New York Times management representatives unveiled a list of more than 50 proposed cutbacks in pay, benefits, job security and other contract provisions as the price for The Times to help stabilize the Benefits Fund. The Fund provides health insurance for Guild employees at The Times, NY Times Digital and WQXR.

As we have been reporting to you, the Fund is spending more to provide benefits than is currently contributed by management. The Fund is projected to exhaust its reserves around March of 2008, unless changes are made to the benefit structure and The Times agrees to increase its level of contributions. The Benefits Fund is jointly overseen by four Guild Trustees and four Times Trustees. The Fund is declining because of rapidly increasing healthcare costs.

At a meeting Thursday, January 11th, Times management presented a lengthy list of retrogressions that would significantly hurt every member. Health insurance reimbursements would be cut drastically. Employee contributions would be increased dramatically. The Times also proposed that the Guild agree to permit the company to convert the current Pension plan to some type of defined contribution plan for newly hired employees at some point in the future, without identifying what would happen to existing employees.

As a condition for contributing more money to the Benefits Fund, The Times demanded dozens of changes in the existing Guild contract in what they call a “streamlining effort” that would, in reality, gut the agreement. The Times proposes to eliminate major job security provisions by allowing management to fire editors and reporters, deny them severance, and bar the Guild from challenging the termination through arbitration. Other proposed modifications would sharply curtail seniority protections. They would rewrite job descriptions to add new responsibilities, to lengthening the workweek to 40 hours for certain departments, to stripping real job security from reporters and editors. There are dozens of other proposed changes that would take money out of the pockets of Guild employees and reduce their protections and benefits.

The Times refused to identify in its proposal what the company would be willing to do to stabilize the Fund. The Guild and The Times had previously agreed that it would take about $5 million annually in increased company contributions and plan redesign.

During the last round of contract negotiations three years ago, the Guild and The Times agreed to limit to scope of the talks to eight issues. The talks took several months to complete. As a condition to help maintain a Benefits Fund for its employees that The Times is jointly responsible for, management is now proposing more than 50 major changes to the contract, which is supposed to run through March of 2011.

The Guild and The Times will meet again on Friday to continue the discussions.



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