Presses Rolling Again At New York Post p.

By: Geroge Garneau Two-day shutdown leads to hectic discussions and tentative agreements between unions and Rupert Murdoch
THERE WAS NO New York Post for two days, and it looked like the perennially money-losing tabloid and its 700 employees had run out of miracles.
But New York Gov. Mario Cuomo stepped in and persuaded labor and management to resume talks. Two days of hectic discussions led to tentative agreements, and the presses started to roll again.
""HERE TO STAY,"" trumpeted the red Page One headline July 13. A graphic depicted Post founder Alexander Hamilton, thumb up and smiling.
In last-minute pacts, 10 production unions agreed to $6.2 million in concessions to save the Post. It was the paper's fourth brush with extinction in five years.
Rupert Murdoch ? whose News Corp. subsidiary has been in charge since March under a management agreement with bankrupt Post owner Peter Kalikow ? canceled the agreement and shut the paper down at 4 p.m. July 9 after 11 unions refused to submit to his demands by his deadline.
Murdoch wanted $6.2 million in cost-cutting concessions ? less than half the $15 million a year the paper says it is now losing.
When the smoke cleared, he got it.
After desperate meetings convened by Cuomo over two days, 10 of the paper's 11 unions reached tentative accords by the end of business, July 12, leaving enough time to get the paper back on the streets July 13, after failing to publish July 9 and 11.
As E&P went to press Wednesday, it was unclear how many production jobs would be lost. The unions were still counting their losses in terms of jobs, staffing requirements, overtime and other work rules, and working on specific contract language on how to achieve the savings.
""With the help of the unions, their members and their families, we have made the sacrifice and saved the Post again,"" said George McDonald, president of the mailers' union and of the umbrella group of craft unions. ""We've given everything we could.""

Massive givebacks

He said the drivers agreed to $2.2 million in annual savings, including overtime, route changes and a scheme to sell the trucks to drivers. The pressmen gave up $800,000, and the mailers coughed up $700,000 worth of jobs and reduced staffing requirements.
Frank Sparacino, the new president of the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers Union who worked closely with Cuomo, said he saved all 184 drivers' union jobs at the Post.
Only the Newspaper Guild local, whose 295 newsroom and advertising staffers make it the Post's largest union, was left without a deal.
Unlike the staffing and other operating-cost cuts he demanded from the craft unions, Murdoch wants the Guild to slash management's severance obligation to a maximum of eight weeks and wants the right to fire workers, regardless of seniority, during a four-month ""free-fire zone.""
The Guild refused, on the grounds that the demands would break the union and take away much of what has become retirement pay earned over years.
But the Guild agreed to return to work pending non-binding talks under the auspices of state mediators.
""There is very little resolve, just an agreement to put it off,"" said Harry Leykis, the Post's Guild unit chairman. No serious talks were expected until August.
He said management has agreed to at least discuss the ""free-fire"" demand, to which the union has counterproposed third-party arbitration. The plan to slash about $7 million worth of severance remains ""a bitter pill to swallow"" for workers making $300 a week less than union colleagues at other papers, Leykis said.
But a deal can be worked out ""if both sides are trying to make something happen,"" he said.
It was the second time this year that a New York newspaper has divided the Guild from the craft unions.
Mortimer Zuckerman, who acquired the Daily News from bankruptcy in January, came to terms with all the paper's unions but the Guild, whose members he picked and chose as he saw fit, leaving 170 jobless. The union remains without a contract.
McDonald said he expected the Guild would come to terms with Murdoch.
The five-year agreements, which require membership ratification, signify the second step of a three-step process by which Murdoch is attempting to repurchase the Post. First, he won Federal Communications Commission approval to waive a rule preventing ownership of a newspaper and television station in the same market. Next comes the offer to Kalikow's creditors in bankruptcy court.
Employees were glad for another reprieve though not surprised that their cadaverous newspaper has again risen from the morgue slab to re-enter fighting in the city's raucous tabloid wars.
""You can't kill us,"" Post columnist Jack Newfield said. ""We've been given the last rites so often I've started to speak Latin.""
The Post has been kept alive for 20 years or so more by the good will, ego or lust for power of its publishers than by the profits it has produced.
Dorothy Schiff published it for 38 years and struggled to make a profit before selling it to Murdoch in 1976.
When he bought a New York television station, Murdoch was forced to sell it to Peter Kalikow in 1988, after losing $150 million on the paper.
Kalikow's real estate problems sent him to bankruptcy court in 1991.
The Post's long-term outlook remains deeply troubled. It faces a revitalized Daily News under Zuckerman and the deep pockets of Times Mirror Co.'s New York Newsday, both apparently losing money; a shrinking base of retail advertisers, and a tiny fraction of the advertising market share, which the New York Times dominates.
Perhaps the most colorful simile came from Post gossip page editor Tim McDarrah, who told a Times reporter this about the 437,000-circulation paper:
""The New York Post is like a dead fish, flip-flopping around. Every once in a while, someone kicks it back into the water to put some more life in it."" ? Photo by Robin Graubard
? New York Post Newspaper Guild unit chairman Harry Leykis (right) makes the announcement July 9 that Rupert Murdoch is shutting down the newspaper. Barry Lipton (dark suit), president of the New York Guild local, looks on.
? Photo by Robin Graubard
? New York Post newsroom employees, including columnist Jack Newfield (left), listen to the announcement that the Post is closing. They were given one hour to gather their belongings and leave the building.
? In last-minute pacts, 10 production unions agreed to $6.2 million in concessions to save the Post from its fourth brush with extinction in five years.


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