MANAGEMENT THREW COLD water on a conditional offer by six unions to return to work at the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press in exchange for several conditions, including the return of strikers to the jobs they walked off of three months ago.
"Our response is, we're not interested and will not reinstate the old contract . . . [which would] reinitiate any of the featherbedding and work practices which we were willing to take a strike on," said News editor and publisher Robert H. Giles.
Al Derey, the chairman of the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions, said the six unions made the offer because of the "terrible strain" the work stoppage has put on members, their family and the Detroit community in general.
Under the conditional offer, strikers would return to their jobs under the terms of their old contracts, which expired April 30. The six unions, representing at the time 2,500 workers, struck July 13.
In addition, the union proposal called for 30 days of "intensive bargaining," to be followed by binding arbitration of any remaining contract differences.
Workers would return to their old jobs under the proposal, although the offer does envision the negotiation of "modified reemployment or buyouts" as a result of circulation declines caused by the strike.
Knight-Ridder, publisher of the Free Press, said that in the first 10 weeks of the strike, a total of 340 former strikers returned to work at its paper, the News or Detroit Newspapers.
Another 1,402 replacement workers were hired to replace strikers, the chain said.
On another front, the six striking unions on Oct. 3 filed a $30 million lawsuit against Detroit Newspapers, the agency that operates business and production functions at the two papers, and a host of codefendants ranging from the security company hired by the newspapers to the police chief of Sterling Heights, Mich.
The lawsuit alleges that actions by the newspapers, its guards and some Sterling Heights municipal officials have violated the First Amendment rights of the strikers. Detroit Newspapers' main production facility is located in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, and has been the scene of numerous violent confrontations between pickets and both private security guards and city police.
"In Sterling Heights, we have a local government committing violence against its own citizens to help the Detroit Newspapers destroy good jobs," the Teamsters international president, Ron Carey, said in a prepared statement.
At the center of the allegations is $480,000 Detroit Newspapers has contributed to Sterling Heights to defray some of the overtime pay that has been accrued by police officers on duty at the newspaper production facility.
Several Sterling Heights council members, sympathetic to the striking unions, forced the resignation of the city's manager when they found out about the Detroit Newspapers contributions. The council voted Sept. 19 not to accept any further donations from the newspapers.
In addition to Detroit Newspapers, those named in the unions' lawsuit were three companies who specialize in providing security during strikes, Asset Protection Team, Huffmaster Associates and Vance International. Also, named were the city of Sterling Heights, its police chief, Thomas Derocha, and its former city manager Steven Duchane.
?(Our response is, we're not interested and will not reinstate the old contact...[which would] reinitiate any of the featherbedding and work practices which we were willing to take a strike on.") [Caption]
?(Robert H. Giles, editor and publisher, Detroit News) [Caption & Photo]
By: Mark Fitzgerald Detroit newspapers cool to unions' offer to return to work sp.