Guilds in Minneapolis and Rochester, N.Y., Forge Contract Agreements

By: Joe Strupp

Newspaper Guild units at The Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle have reached new contract agreements with management. In Rochester’s case, the deal comes after 16 years of negotiations.

In a release, the Rochester guild stated the two-year contract follows more than a decade of “difficult and sometimes stalled negotiations.” But the union has struck a deal for the approximately 90 reporters, photographers, copy editors, multi-media journalists and artists at the Democrat and Chronicle the unit represents.

“Union-represented employees voted to accept the two-year contract July 15, ensuring a strong voice in the workplace, and job protections and benefits that are guaranteed and enforceable under law,” the union announcement stated.

?Given the turmoil and challenges in the newspaper industry today, this is no small feat,? Steve Orr, president of Local 17, Newspaper Guild of Rochester, said in a statement. ?We have workplace rules that cannot be changed on a whim. We have the ability to question unfair decisions without fear of retribution, which is more than many other newspaper employees across the country can say. It took a long time to get to this point, and we are extremely grateful for the support we?ve received from inside and outside the newsroom.?

The union did not reveal terms of the contract, but stated: “During the 16-year period without a new contract, the company honored most of the terms of the old agreement, and Guild members continued to receive raises and benefits. The long duration is attributable in good part to the fact that Gannett?s bargaining team would only meet for short sessions once every few months. In some years, the parties negotiated the equivalent of only one or two work days.”

In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the Star Tribune reached a tentative three-year deal with guild employees, the paper reported.

“Terms of the deal weren’t released when the announcement was made, but the approximately 300 Star Tribune union members including newsroom, circulation and promotion employees will get details today, and will meet Wednesday to discuss the proposal and to vote on it eight days before the current contract expires,” the paper reported.

Graydon Royce, co-chairman of the newsroom unit, told the paper that the proposal “addresses economic and operational matters, and includes $2.5 million in cost reductions the company requested in April.”

Editor Nancy Barnes “praised both parties for reaching a tentative deal, but didn’t discuss details other than to say that the company will achieve those savings through a variety of means, including the elimination of some newsroom jobs,” the paper stated.

“These are very difficult times, and I commend the work of both parties,” she said in a story. “I’m glad that we’re done.”

The new contract would take effect Aug. 1 and last until July 31, 2011, and if ratified would include the elimination of six positions, with the intent to offer buyouts, Royce told the paper.

The story added that since its sale in March 2007 to Avista Capital Partners, the Star Tribune newsroom had cut more than 80 reporters, editors, photographers and designers through two rounds of buyouts and the elimination of open positions.

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