By: Joe Strupp
With only two days remaining for union members at The Jersey Journal to approve a management plan to lay off half the Jersey City, N.J., newspaper’s union work force or risk closure of the 135-year-old daily, only one of the paper’s three bargaining units has reached final agreement on the cutback.
Local 153 of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents 42 clerical workers at the paper, agreed last week to cut 18 of them, according to Pat Hoffman, a union business agent.
The other two unions — Local 42 of The Newspaper Guild, which represents 39 editorial employees at the Journal, and the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers’ Union (NMDU), whose membership includes 18 drivers there — have yet to sign off on the management request for cutbacks.
(Previous stories in E&P and from the Associated Press incorrectly reported that two unions had already signed off on management’s request.)
Ron Leir, president of Local 42 of the Guild, said his union had reached an agreement in principle with the newspaper to allow the layoffs of 17 full-timers and three part-timers. But he said the membership still had to approve the plan, which will go to a vote Thursday night. He also stressed that even if the cutbacks are supported by a majority of members, they require approval from every union member.
“Seventeen people slated to go away still have to approve it,” he added. “Anyone of them could stop it.”
NMDU representatives, meanwhile, met for the first time with management negotiators Wednesday, according to union business agent Thomas Bentvena. The newspaper wants nine of the 18 drivers to be laid off. Bentvena would not speculate on whether the request would be accepted, but said the union is “cautiously optimistic.”
Leir said the uncertainty of the NMDU negotiations casts some doubt on the paper’s future. “There is a possibility that if talks with the drivers go badly, Saturday’s could be the last issue,” he warned.
Advance Publications, which owns the 43,411-daily-circulation paper, requested the cutbacks to offset continued losses, most of which stem from the poor advertising market.
Those slated for layoffs would receive two weeks’ salary for each year of service up to 48 weeks, along with nine months of paid health benefits, according to Leir. He added that every laid-off employee would receive a $10-a-week raise retroactive to June 2000, while every remaining employee would receive $10-a-week raises in each of the next three years.