Vote Means Lockout Will End at Toledo ‘Blade’

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The Blade’s largest union approved a new contract Tuesday that includes wage and job cuts for employees in the newsroom and advertising and circulation departments.

A total of seven unions that reached a tentative agreement with the newspaper last week have now approved new contracts that will end a nine-month-old lockout of about a third of The Blade’s union workers.

The unions represent about 650 workers whose contracts expired in March 2006. The six other unions approved agreements last week. An eighth union approved a pact last year.

More than 85 percent of the Toledo Newspaper Guild’s 300 members voted Tuesday on the three-year contract, which includes buyout offers or layoffs for eight to 11 workers, said guild president Lillian Covarrubias. The guild didn’t release vote totals but said the agreement was approved by a nearly 2-1 ratio.

Buyouts and layoffs will eliminate an additional 26 positions among the other unions, including drivers and mailers. There also will be a 16 percent pay cut on all wages above $490 per week for all full-time workers, except press operators.

“We have to move on and deal with the concessions we had to make, and we hope this will make the company more profitable,” Covarrubias said.

The last contract agreement, signed in 2003, included a three-year wage freeze and no increase in health care and hospitalization costs.

The Blade locked out 215 workers last August and replaced them with temporary workers. They included engravers, drivers, workers who process advertisements and mailers who assemble the papers.

A notice on the Newspaper Guild’s Web site tonight follows.
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The newly approved contract is concessionary, and includes pay cuts, a commission sales plan for sales staff that had been salaried, an even greater share of the cost of health care, longer work hours at the same pay, a second-tier wage scale for new employees, and two less paid days off per year for the duration of the contract.

The Guild was able to maintain sick time, vacation time for current employees, and the union and free speech rights that all workers should have. And we will remain vigilant to ensure that our members? rights in the workplace are protected.

The concessions made by The Guild and our brother unions in the Council represent more than $15 million in savings and efficiencies over the life of the contract. We believe these contracts will do what we promised to do before our dispute began: return The Blade to profitability.

We would like to take this opportunity to encourage subscribers to come back to The Blade, and encourage all advertisers to do the same.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank area residents and our friends in the labor community for their support. The support we received was inspiring to us, and helped us maintain our unparalleled unity.

On behalf of all unionized Blade members, we now look forward to once again making The Blade One of America?s great newspapers

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