'Chicago Sun-Times' Bidders: We're Not Union 'Adversaries'

By: E&P Staff Chicago financier James Tyree pressed his case Friday that his investor group bidding on the Chicago Sun-Times parent company needs major concessions from unionize employees -- and fast -- while declaring they are friends of labor.

"We understand the concerns of union members about the amendments that we believe are necessary to save the papers," the group said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "We are hopeful that as all facts become known, union members will realize that we are supporters of organized labor, not adversaries."

The concessions are "the only solution we know" that will save Sun-Times Media Group, a chain of 58 dailies and weeklies that employs 1,800, including 600 union positions, the Tyree group said.

The prospective buyers have been getting substantial pushback from some union members, especially those represented by the Chicago Newspaper Guild. Several Guild units, including the biggest, at the Sun-Times, have voted to reject the concessions -- which include locking in a 15% pay cut that was to be reversed when the company was sold, elimination of seniority in work assignments and layoffs, and other work and jurisdiction rules.

"We have not suggested concessions beyond those we truly believe are necessary to turn the business around," the Tyree group said.

The federal judge overseeing Sun-Times Media Group's bankruptcy on Thursday effectively nullified the Sept. 29 deadline the Tyree bidders had set for all unions to agree to contract concessions. But the judge also set Oct. 7 for an auction of the company, in which the Tyree group is almost certainly going to be the only bidder, with an approval of the sale scheduled for the next day.

"To protect the future of the Sun-Times Media Group business, however, it is crucial for us to achieve the union amendments promptly for a closing as quickly as possible after the October 8 sale hearing," the bidders statement on Friday said. "Time remains of the essence to save this institution."


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