Philadelphia Media Network, Newspaper Guild Reach Tentative Agreement

By: E&P Staff

“Our discussions with the unions are under way, and there is an understanding of the economic and industry challenges that we all are facing,” Philadelphia Newspapers’ new publisher/CEO Greg Osberg told E&P last month when asked about how negotiations were proceeding on a new contract with its 14 labor unions. “I am hopeful that we’ll be able to arrive at agreements that will allow us to move forward with the financial stability necessary to begin building the most successful local media company in the country.”
 
It looks as though those negotiations went better than some expected.

The new owners of Philadelphia Newspapers, or what will be known as the Philadelphia Media Network Inc., have reached a tentative agreement with the bargaining committee of Newspaper Guild/CWA Local 38010 on elements of a new three-year contract that guarantees no layoffs in the first year, according to a memo.

“Talks continue on other aspects of the bargaining agreement, but we did not want to keep you waiting on details that will most directly impact your pocket,” the memo, posted Thursday night on Romenesko, reads.

“We believe this contract gives our new owners, PN Purchaser Co., L.L.C., the cost-savings and flexibility they need to move the company forward and transition us into a 24-hour media company of the future,” the memo continues. “Counting the concessions detailed below and the attrition of employees who have left since 2009, the 2011 Guild payroll will be approximately $6 million less than the 2009 payroll.”

Among the concessions are 10 days of unpaid furlough time per year for all members, beginning Jan. 1, 2011.

The talks, the Guild notes, “started out badly, with the new employer proposing a 13-percent wage cut. The bargaining committee swiftly rejected such an onerous suggestion.”

The guild leaders also describe a positive change in the overall tone of the negotiations. “What followed was an atmosphere free of the vindictiveness and spite that had often plagued previous negotiations,” the memo reads. “We expect this spirit of cooperation to continue throughout the contract, and we will demand that the new management team be a true partner in the years ahead — working with us and not against us.”

The full memo follows:

Philly papers’ new owners, Newspaper Guild reach tentative agreement on three-year contract
From: Guild Bulletin
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 6:34 PM
To: Guild Bulletin; Bill Ross BB
Subject: Guild reaches tentative agreement on economics with PN Purchaser Co., L.L.C.

Dear Guild member,

The bargaining committee of Newspaper Guild/CWA Local 38010 has reached a tentative agreement on key economic elements of a new three-year contract that guarantees no layoffs in the first year. Talks continue on other aspects of the bargaining agreement, but we did not want to keep you waiting on details that will most directly impact your pocket.

While the past year has been a stressful time for all of us at the Inquirer and Daily News as our industry has been in freefall and our employer has been in bankruptcy, we believe this contract gives our new owners, PN Purchaser Co., L.L.C., the cost-savings and flexibility they need to move the company forward and transition us into a 24-hour media company of the future. Counting the concessions detailed below and the attrition of employees who have left since 2009, the 2011 Guild payroll will be approximately $6 million less than the 2009 payroll.

The talks started out badly, with the new employer proposing a 13-percent wage cut. The bargaining committee swiftly rejected such an onerous suggestion. Overall what followed was an atmosphere free of the vindictiveness and spite that had often plagued previous negotiations. We expect this spirit of cooperation to continue throughout the contract, and we will demand that the new management team be a true partner in the years ahead — working with us and not against us.

Here are the key concessionary components to the tentative agreement:
1) All full-time members will be required to take 10 unpaid furlough days per year beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Furlough days for part-time members will be pro-rated. Furlough days may be spread throughout the calendar year, subject to the discretion of your supervisor. Furlough days may not be taken during vacation season or at holidays without the permission of your supervisor. The 10 furlough days equal a 4-percent pay cut.

2) All full-time and part-time members will face an additional 2-percent salary reduction upon the effective date of the new contract, which remains unclear. The exception is commission sales staff. Because they will not be subjected to furloughs, there will be a total 6-percent reduction in commission pay.

3) The work week of all full-time employees will increase from 37.5 hours to 40 hours per week.

4) Shift differentials and meal allowances will be eliminated.

Among the good news:

1) The company will provide a 401(k) match of 50 percent of employee contributions up to a maximum employer match of 3 percent. For instance, if you contribute 6 percent of your pay to the fund, the company puts in 3 percent; if you put in 4 percent, the company will add another 2 percent, and so on.

2) Editorial and advertising employees of Philly.com will now be members of the Guild, an acknowledgement of our long-standing claim that they do bargaining-unit work.

3) Seniority has been strengthened. In the newsrooms, core beats (carve-outs to the seniority system) have been eliminated. So has the second tier wage scale intended for new hires. All so-called Tier 2 employees will be merged into the Main Unit editorial seniority list.

4) There is no change to your vacation or sick time.

5) In the second year of the contract, the Guild and the Company will form a subcommittee to create a potential profit-sharing plan that would not go into effect before the third year of the contract.

Stay tuned for news of further developments, including when a ratification vote will be held.

In solidarity,
Dan Gross, President
Howard Gensler, Treasurer
Diane Mastrull, Unit Chair
Bill Ross, Executive Director, and the Executive Board of the Newspaper Guild of Greater
Philadelphia/CWA Local 38010

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