Worcester’s First Union Contract Expected This Week

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By: Joe Strupp

Newspaper Guild leaders at the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette expect to finalize an agreement on Thursday that would give the paper’s 200 editorial and circulation employees their first contract ever.

If negotiators for management and the union agree in principle to the proposed four-year contract, rank-and-file members would have several weeks to ratify the deal by mail, said Kathy Shaw, the Worcester unit chair of the Providence Newspaper Guild Local 31041, which represents both the Telegram & Gazette (Click for QuikCap) and The Providence (R.I.) Journal (Click for QuikCap).

“We’re down to the wire,” Shaw told E&P Tuesday. “We are hoping to wrap things up at this point.”

Vic Dinardo, the Telegram & Gazette human resources director who is involved in negotiations for management, declined to comment on a likely contract, but said negotiations were going well.

Shaw said the two sides are planning to complete the contract during the next negotiating session on Thursday morning. The contract would be the first Guild agreement in the history of the paper, which is owned by The New York Times Co. Guild leaders have been seeking a contract since workers voted for the union in 1993.

“I knew it would happen,” said Shaw, who praised management negotiators for bargaining in good faith. “Things have gone well.”

If the current proposal is agreed to at Thursday’s meeting, it would include a first-year raise of 2.5%, with subsequent raises subject to future open negotiations; binding arbitration for any grievances; the creation of a labor-management committee to review newspaper policies; and the current overtime provisions that provide time-and-a-half after 40 hours each week.

“We are not losing anything and we think that this gives us a good overtime,” Shaw added.

In addition, the contract would include a layoff procedure giving preference by seniority, as well as protection for circulation employees if the paper decides to contract out any of its delivery services, Shaw said. If approved, the contract would mark the second time in less than a month that the Providence Newspaper Guild has struck a new deal for newspaper employees. On Dec. 19, 2003, members of the Providence Journal unit voted in favor of an eight-year deal, retroactive to 2000, which included raises and a $1,000 bonus.

That contract was significant because it followed years of bitter negotiations that included unfair labor practice charges from the Guild and a variety of union protests, including picketing and byline strikes at the Journal, owned by Dallas-based Belo.

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