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The largest union at the Boston Globe will vote on a new contract with The New York Times Co. on Monday.
Union members are voting on a tentative deal the Boston Newspaper Guild and The Times reached in June to cut $10 million in wages and benefits. The deal was negotiated after the first agreement failed to pass and The Times imposed a 23-percent wage cut.
This agreement, which calls for a 9-percent pay cut, is being endorsed by the union. Union representative and reporter Beth Daley said she will vote for it even though she voted down the last proposal.
"I feel like we need to settle this contract and move and get this paper on track to hopefully become profitable and continue great journalism," Daley said. "And this is distracting all of us for far too long."
The union hopes the agreement will signal to potential buyers that workers are willing to make sacrifices to save the paper.
WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov is covering the future of the globe and explained the contract vote to WBUR's Delores Handy.
Delores Handy: Is there as much drama in this vote as there was during the first vote at the beginning of last month? Is there much doubt about the deal winning approval this time?
Monica Brady-Myerov: This time it is expected to pass, but it could be close, and there is still a lot of drama. There are active "Vote Yes" and "Vote No" campaigns going on at the Globe. If you remember, last time the contract failed to pass by only 12 votes. And that time there was a large, vocal "No" campaign that argued they could do better if they went back to the table. Instead, what happened is The Times imposed a 23-percent pay cut, and the union went back to the table and came out with a contract that is not much different from the one they rejected.
This time it's a tentative deal, which means it has the union's stamp of approval. And also the people who are in favor of it are actively lobbying their colleagues to vote for it. There are still a vocal "No" campaign, but I think that because it comes with the union's approval, it's more likely to pass.
How does this contract compare with the one they turned down in early June?
It is pretty similar. The New York Times still gets the $10 million in savings they say they need. The pay cut is a little smaller for Guild members, but when you total up salary cuts, furloughs and unpaid vacation days, it's a 9-percent cut as opposed to a 10-percent cut in the previous contract. It eliminated the company's contributions to 401(k) retirement plans. It eliminates lifetime job guarantees for 170 guild members. It freezes pensions.
But what some union members who are going to vote against it really don't like about it is what happens with this 23-percent pay cut that the Guild members have been living with. And The Times says, "OK, OK. We'll pay you back." But they're taking that money from what they would have contributed to employees' health care coverage. So, some people felt the union caved with this deal and really should have taken The Times to the National Labor Relations Board. They think they would have won that dispute.
What will this contract signal for potential buyers? The New York Times is trying to sell the Globe.
The most important thing it will signal is the elimination of lifetime job guarantees. This will allow a new owner to make cuts where the current owners can't and haven't been able to. Union members who are voting for it, such as reporter Beth Daley, say it will also show buyers the workers will to make sacrifices to keep the paper healthy.
"Frankly I'm eager for a yes vote," Daley said, "because I feel whatever we're going to become, we'll get there quicker and hopefully with an owner that's fair."
The New York Times has extended its deadline for non-binding bids for the paper. Monica, how long could it take for a new owner to emerge?
I think that depends on how the vote goes on Monday. People I spoke with thought the sale process was going too quickly and that might not result in enough potential buyers having time to make an offer. And The New York Times is signaling they don't have to sell the Globe right now.
Recently, publishers Arthur and Janet Salzberger wrote to all New York Times and Globe employees and told them that even though they're $1 billion in debt, most of it doesn't come due for another five years, so they're confident they have the "financial strength and flexibility to manage through this difficult time."
This program aired on July 20, 2009.
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