Strike averted at Chicago Sun-Times p. 17

By: Mark Fitzgerald IN MARATHON TALKS that extended past a noon strike deadline ? while reporters in the newsroom refused to perform work ? the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Newspaper Guild agreed to a new, three-year contract Nov. 7.
The pact, which is expected to be ratified next week, provides for a 4% wage increase in the first year and 2.5% raises in the following two years. Top minimum for a reporter was $975 a week under the contract that expired Sept. 30.
Though the Sun-Times has new owners ? Conrad Black's American Publishing Co. bought the paper for $180 million in March ? the talks followed a familiar pattern of fast-paced negotiations, tough words from both sides, and bargaining past a strike deadline.
As in past negotiations, the final moments of talks were held as Guild members stacked picket signs along the Irv Kupcinet Bridge beside the Sun-Times building, and reporters inside donned coats and packed personal effects.
Both sides professed satisfaction with the outcome.
In addition to winning wage increases and increased company contributions to pension and health benefits packages, the Guild retained the 10% premium night-differential pay.
Sun-Times officials had loudly decried the night-differential arrangement that is given to employees who work any part of their shift during the hours of 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The company won concessions on some so-called management rights issues. Reporters no longer have an unlimited right to refuse out-of-town assignments ? they can now be declined only because of family emergencies ? and the management won the right to reassign bureau staff members within the first 18 months of their bureau assignments.
The contract also gives management what it calls improved control of sick-pay procedures.
James W. Artz, the newspaper's senior vice president/human resources,
said the changes would "benefit editors in running the newsroom."
In a week that saw San Francisco's daily newspapers essentially cease publishing in a bitter strike and the lockout of unions at Southam Inc.'s Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province in Canada, the Sun-Times settlement was a kind of throwback to traditional newspaper labor negotiations.
"Despite the rhetoric the Guild had to know by what we did . . . that we weren't out to create a war," Artz said. "We weren't out to put them out to the edge and push them over. What's different certainly in . . . San Francisco is they [are] out to make fundamental changes in the relationship. That was never our intention."


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