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Union employees open to concessions, but demand management cuts as well (MS)

Some Boston Globe union workers were stunned to learn of the newspaper’s threatened shutdown. To others, it was not a complete surprise, given the industry’s mounting troubles. Some viewed it as a negotiating ploy, others as a serious threat.

But all of those interviewed said they are willing to accept pay cuts and other concessions to save New England’s largest newspaper – as long as executives and managers make the same sacrifices.

"If management is willing to lead us, to take pay cuts and concessions, I’m sure the union would be willing,” said Bob Sullivan, 56, who has worked as a mailer for 38 years. "We all want to keep our jobs. We all want to keep the Globe publishing.”

Officials from the Globe’s owner, The New York Times Co., and the Globe declined to comment yesterday.

Last week, the Times Co. threatened to quickly shutter the money-losing newspaper unless its 13 unions agree to $20 million in concessions, including pay cuts, reduced company contributions to retirement and healthcare, and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some 430 workers, according to union officials and others familiar with the matter. Management told union leaders last week that without serious cutbacks, the Globe is projected to lose $85 million this year, after a $50 million loss in 2008, according to a Globe employee who was briefed on the discussion.

The Globe and newspapers across the country have been hard hit by the recession, accelerating declines that began years ago as readers and advertisers migrated to the Internet.

The concessions will be negotiated separately with each union, according to union officials. Globe management will meet with individual unions this week to detail the concessions they are seeking from each one, said Ralph Giallanella, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 259, which represents about 200 drivers who deliver the newspaper.

The Globe has about 1,400 union employees. The Boston Newspaper Guild is the largest, representing more than 700 editorial, advertising, and business office employees. It is unclear how swiftly the unions will need to reach an agreement to prevent closing the Globe, but one union leader has said concessions need to be made within 30 days.

The Globe completed cutting the equivalent of 50 full-time positions in its newsroom through buyouts and layoffs last week. Jenifer McKim, a business reporter who joined the paper in August, said she was just breathing easier after surviving the last round of job cuts. Now, she said, the situation is "bigger and sadder.”

"Last week I was worrying about me, but now it’s not just my job, but this great paper,” said McKim, 42, who grew up in Brookline. "I’ve been reading it since I was a little girl, and I always wanted to work for the Globe.’

McKim, who worked for the Orange County Register in California before the Globe, said she supports making concessions. "We have to change,” she said. "I want to be part of the transition to multimedia. I imagine we’ll always be telling stories and a watchdog in the community.”

Scott Allen, 47, a reporter and editor for 17 years, said he understands the need to make concessions, even on the lifetime job guarantees. Allen is among those with a guaranteed job.

"It’s not sacrosanct,” he said. "It’s protection that I value, but other things are more important.”

Union workers said management must share in the pain. Many have already gone years without raises in the face of continued declines in revenues.

Dan Pushee, 56, a machinist for 30 years, said executives have received bonuses even as workers have been laid off.

"We’ll give back,” Pushee said, "but they’ve got to give back their bonuses and take pay cuts.”

Several managers who declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly said they are willing to make sacrifices. In fact, they fully expect the Times Co. to impose more cuts on management’s pay and benefits. Last week, the Times Co. instituted a temporary 5 percent pay cut for nonunion managers at the Globe and other properties in exchange for 10 additional paid days off.

In January, the company cut pension benefits for existing nonunion managers, and managers hired after Jan. 1 no longer receive a pension plan but rather an enhanced 401(k). And last month, the company eliminated retiree health benefits for nonunion employees.

James McLaughlin, a mailer for 38 years, said workers have been making concessions for years, giving up raises and paying more for healthcare. Last year, the pressmen and union drivers agreed to concessions, including a 5 percent wage cut that will result in annualized savings of $10.5 million, according to a person briefed on the deals.

"It’s tough,” said McLaughlin, 58. "We never thought we’d have to worry about the demise of the newspaper. We’ve given up so much. I think I can give a little more.”

Robert Gavin can be reached at