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Talks are to resume Tuesday between the management of the Boston Globe and its largest union, the Boston Newspaper Guild. The two sides have yet to agree on cutting costs and worker protections that management says is necessary to keep the paper running.
Talks stalled Monday, after the union would not budge on giving up the lifetime job guarantees that more than 100 of its members have. But at the same time, management won similar concessions from other smaller unions, and that has changed the backdrop for Tuesday’s negotiations.
The New York Times Co. owns the Boston Globe, and the publisher goes into Tuesday’s talks having won a couple of minor victories. Both the mailer’s union and the pressmen’s union agreed Monday to millions of dollars in concessions. As in lower pay and fewer benefits.
Martin Callaghan said he’d had better days as head of the pressmen’s union, but the choice was clear.
"These are people’s jobs and lives that are at stake here," he said. "It’s not an us-or-them mentality right now. I mean, we’re trying to save jobs and save a vital public interest in the Boston area, with the newspaper."
Management said in a statement it was pleased with the agreements and would back off for now from its threat to close the Globe. But it also said it was disappointed with the lack of an agreement with the Boston Newspaper Guild.
Reporter Scott Allen, a Guild officer, said it’s not for trying.
"We know there’s a mortal danger to the Boston Globe. We know we have to give big concessions. And I know that the union leadership has worked around the clock to come up with a way to spread the pain around amongst our membership, so that our membership will accept the deep concessions that the company needs."
Allen said the Guild is willing to make $10 million worth of concessions, including a pay cut of up to 3.5 percent. But so far the Guild is not willing to concede something that the mailer’s union, for one, has: The lifetime job contracts that more than 100 Guild members have.
He said just because other unions have now agreed to give up this immunity to layoffs, doesn’t mean the Guild will too.
"The other people, the other unions have reached their own agreements separately. And I’m glad if that helps to save the paper. But I think we have to make our own decisions based on what’s best for our members."
Other Guild members who spoke on condition of anonymity say it’s going to be hard to go it alone. They admit that as much as the New York Times Co. has turned them off lately with what they call brutal negotiating tactics, they’re coming to a growing realization that the union will have to relinquish its lifetime job guarantees.
Tom Kochan is a workforce relations expert at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He said he’s not surprised the Guild is the lone holdout among unions on this issue. The union is, after all, the biggest one -- the most critical for the New York Times Co. to settle with. Kochan said the union may choose to give up the lifetime jobs in exchange for bigger severance packages or other concessions from the company.
"So, for example," he said, "the Guild has made a major issue out of having a voice in management. Having some role for upside potential if the Globe starts to make money again that their employees would benefit from it as well, so it may be that some of those issues are still on the table that are particularly of concern to Guild members."
Sitting on the other side of the table, The New York Times Co. will try to keep the pressure on the Guild. After all, as the last union standing, the Guild wouldn’t want to be singled out as responsible for the end of the Boston Globe.
This program aired on May 5, 2009.
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