New Hampshire Paper to Guild: We’re Terminating Your Contract

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The New Hampshire Union Leader has told The Newspaper Guild local that On June 10 it will terminate its contract with the union representing 151 employees at the Manchester daily.

Guild local President Norm Walsh, a Union Leader copy editor, said Monday that the newspaper?s notice of the move says it is not trying to bust the union.

?Are they trying to eliminate (the union)? We?re not quite sure,? Walsh said. ?It seems they?re trying to get to the same place as impasse without having to declare an impasse.?

Sharon Ciechon, the newspaper?s director of human resources who has been the management lead negotiator, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the move. The paper has consistently declined to talk about labor negotiations.

The newspaper?s notice of termination says it will continue to honor economic terms of the contract, local President Walsh said. The contract, he noted, has a so-called ?evergreen? clause to keep terms in effect during bargaining.

The Guild contract expired Dec. 31, 2005, and since then there has been no across-the-board or merit raises, Walsh said. In addition to journalists, the Union Leader Guild unit represents employees in the advertising, accounting, circulation, information technologies and janitorial departments.

Bargaining sessions have been held about once a month since the contract expired, a leisurely pace that Walsh said was about par for the past couple of contract.

The difference this time, the union president said, is that management proposals are much more ?onerous,? and the newspaper ?is unwilling to move.?

According to the union, the Union Leader is proposing no raises at all for the first two years of the three-year pact, which would be retroactive to January 2006, and a 1.5% raise in the final year.

?They have one proposal that at first blush looks pretty benign,? Walsh says. ?They want to strike most language limiting use of part-timers. They?ve said they want to use more part-timers — even to the point of perhaps eliminating some full-time employees, which we find rather alarming.?

The Guild contract also includes a sick pay provision that could come right out of the national union?s model contract. Guild-represented employees can get a year of sick pay. The newspaper is proposing to cut that back to 30 days, Walsh said.

Two other unions — one representing mailers which, like the Guild, is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, and one representing pressmen and platemakers that just affiliated with the Teamsters — are also working without a contract.
Walsh said he understands those unions have been offered the same no-raise contracts for the first two years, but that the newspaper is also offering sign-up bonuses paid when the contract is ratified.

Walsh said the Guild has doubts about the legality of the newspaper?s contract termination: ?We?ve got a number of lawyers looking at it.?

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