UPDATE: Guild Backs Deal At 'The Sun' in Thursday Night Vote

By: Joe Strupp An agreement between The Sun of Baltimore and the Newspaper Guild was passed by the union members by voice voice Thursday night.

A guild release states: "Roughly 480 Guild members will receive a $750 signing bonus and guaranteed annual salary increases over the life of the contract."

"I am glad both sides were able to work together for a fair contract,? said Bill Salganik, President of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, in the release. ?Now, we can put this behind us and work together to produce a great newspaper to serve our community, our readers and our advertisers.?

?This is the right outcome for The Sun,? said Publisher and CEO Tim Ryan in a statement. ?Guild members have shown that they recognize the serious ongoing challenges we are facing in our industry. Tonight they ratified a contract that gives us some important flexibility to meet the changing expectations of our readers and advertisers and acknowledges our need to continue to encourage superior employee performance.?

Earlier today, E&P reported the following in describing the tentative agreement reached earlier.

The union agreed to a controversial provision that could require reporters to take photos, but only with related training, according to a Guild official. The union also won a change in the proposed raise structure that will keep a current mix of automatic raises and merit pay increases instead of a shift to all-merit pay increases in the fourth year, which the paper had sought.

"I think it will be passed," said Bill Salganik, president of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and a 29-year Sun reporter. "The significant change is that there are real raises for everybody every year and some real protections for people trying to do the work of reporter and photographer."

Sun spokeswoman Linda Yurche agreed, saying "we're hopeful that the membership will ratify the tentative agreement." She added that a rejection vote could risk not getting a new contract before the current deal expires Jne 24. "We believe rejection of the tentative agreement tonight would make it quite unlikely that a new deal would be reached before midnight June 24," she said in a statement. "A rejection tonight would basically risk having to start over at the beginning of the process."

The tentative agreement, reached just after midnight, now goes for a vote before the full 480-member guild unit, which is set to consider the contract at a meeting tonight. Members had been planning to vote on a previous offer from The Sun, which was put forth Monday, with a Thursday deadline for ratification.

The previous offer included a $1,000 bonus the first year, a $10-per-week automatic raise in the second and third years, and no automatic raises the fourth year. But it also included a schedule of merit raises from a pool that would be created based on $12 per member in the second year, $15 per member the third year, and $25 per member the fourth year.

The new tentative deal alters that structure to allow automatic raises each year. In the latest proposal, members would receive $10 per week raises each year automatically, with a $10 contribution per member to a merit raise pool the first year, $12 per member the second year, and $15 per member each of the last two years. Each member also will receive a $750 bonus the first year.

Sun officials had also sought to eliminate a provision in the current contract that bars reporters and photographers from doing each others work. Guild officials had objected to the proposal, with 140 members even signing a petition against it on Wednesday. The new deal requires that any staffer forced to work as both a reporter and photographer have proper training, Salganik said.

"They have to provide that training," said Salganik. "It makes us feel we've got to keep an eye on it, but it is a protection. We all want a quality product."

Yurche called the photographer/reporter provision "a positive thing for everyone."

The tentative deal comes less than two weeks before the current four-year agreement is set to expire on June 24. That deal was forged after a bitter labor dispute in 2003 that included the preparation of replacement workers and a vote that occurred just hours before a planned strike.

The recent negotiations have taken a much calmer tone, according to both sides.

The latest contract proposal also occurred at a time when Tribune Co., the Sun's parent owner, is in the process of being sold to a Chicago-based billionaire. The paper is losing 45 staffers across all departments due to a mix of 41 buyouts and four layoffs.


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