By: E&P Staff
Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild members will vote on a tentative contract agreement reached with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But as a Friday contract expiration looms, the newspaper’s joint operating agreement (JOA) partner, The Seattle Times, has so far made only slow progress towards settlement with its far bigger Guild unit.
In a story by staff reporter Eric Pryne, the Times reported that the new two-year contract deal includes a minimum $20 a week wage increase this year, followed by a minimum $25 weekly increase in July 2007. The Guild represents about 140 newsroom employees.
The package also includes more severance pay and a P-I pledge to pay employee health insurance premiums for six months in the event the newspaper shuts down.
The squabbling JOA partners have suspended litigation while they take their case to binding arbitration by a retired judge. His decision, due next May, could seal the fate of the P-I, the paper in the JOA which does not own any of the partnership’s production, business and distribution equipment.
The Blethen family-controlled Times argues that its existence is threatened by the cost of producing what it says is the money-losing P-I. The Times has invoked a clause in the agreement that says if the JOA loses money for three consecutive years, negotiations must start for the closing of the P-I within 18 months.
Hearst Corp., publisher of the P-I, contends that the Times has inflated some costs and that other losses should not be counted in calculating the so-called “loss notice” clause.
At the Times, where the Guild represents some 600 newsroom, advertising, circulation, marketing and composing-room employees, the union and management contract proposals remain far apart, the Times’ Pryne reported.
The Times is proposing a two-year wage freeze, while the union has countered with a $18 per week wage increase for this year and next.
The Times has agreed to open its books to the Guild, the Times reported.
Guild President Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe, a Times desk editor, told the Times that the Times seems eager to reach an agreement before the current contract expires on Friday, but the two sides have a lot of ground to cover. “We’re still moving,” she said. “We’re not moving at a breakneck pace, but we’re not stalled either.”