The print media’s struggle to adapt to the drastic changes wrought by the Internet is far from over but today the New York Times Co. managed to at least partially defer the immediacy of one of its pressing problems: Boston Globe union negotiations. After more than a month of contentious talks, a settlement was reached with most participants.
The Boston Globe paper lost $50m in 2008 and was poised to lose another $85m this year if it continued on the same path. Looking to slow the bleeding, the Times Co. wanted at least $20m in concessionary cutbacks, and other contractual concessions (including the elimination of some lifetime job guarantees).
According to the Globe’s own reporting, $10m was sought from the Newspaper Guild (which represents writers and editors), $5m from mailers, $2.5m from delivery drivers and another $2.2m from press operators.
Late into the weekend, talks were ongoing, and deemed “productive,” but a final deal wasn’t quite within grasp even as a midnight deadline passed.
Having already extended talks past an original May 1st deadline for a deal, and unwilling to let discussions drag on further, the Times made an all or nothing call. In an ultimatum, the company told staffer representatives that if an agreement couldn’t be reached immediately, it would begin the paperwork needed to shutter the paper within 60 days. Had that happened, the Globe would have joined the Seattle P.I , the Rocky Mountain News and other paper’s lost to changing news habits and changing times.
To avoid that fate, six of the seven unions – drivers, mailers, pressmen, electricians, machinists, and technical services – gave in.
The Newspaper Guild, however, refused to bend. The group, which represents about 1,200 editorial and production staff, reportedly wouldn’t agree to certain non-financial issues. (A copy of the group’s rejected proposal to the Times Co. is available here at the Boston Herald).
In consideration of the other unions that conceded, the Times took its threat of closure off the table. Talks between the Times and Guild will continue.
In other news related to newspapers’ struggles… E.W. Scripps reported in earnings this morning that segment profit at newspapers solely managed by the company sunk 88% to $2.9 million, compared with $25.6 million in the first quarter of 2008. (release)
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