Unions at Pittsburgh Paper Ratify New Contract With Pay Cuts

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The final unions to vote ratified a new contract with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday, agreeing to a deal that includes staff reductions, net pay cuts and changes in health care.

The newspaper’s owners had said they were losing money and threatened to sell the paper if a new labor deal was not reached.

The newspaper’s editorial union approved the deal Thursday, and the last unions voted in favor of the 39-month contract Saturday. The unions had been working under the terms of five-year contracts that expired Dec. 31.

Under the new contracts, all 14 bargaining units will have wages frozen over the life of the contract, and employees must divert 5 percent of their wages toward health care.

“Achieving new labor agreements reflects an understanding by all of our employees that the newspaper industry and the Post-Gazette are changing to meet the challenges and interests of our readers, advertisers and the communities we serve,” said David Beihoff, president of the Post-Gazette.

The Teamsters are expected to lose 80 positions through attrition and buyouts, and the newspaper is looking to cut dozens of other positions through buyouts, including 10 members of the newsroom staff.

The contract also requires retirees to pay at least 25 percent of their premium payments. In the past, they received health care for free.

“It’s trying times for newspapers and trying times for the workers,” Teamsters President Joe Molinero said. “We have to do our best to ensure that they stay in business, so we stay in business.”

The newspaper’s management sought union concessions due to several years of operating losses. The Post-Gazette has said that it has lost $23 million since 2003, and has predicted a further operating loss of $20 million this year.

The Post-Gazette is owned by Block Communications, which also owns The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, where the company is engaged in a bitter battle with its unions.

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com

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