The New York Times Co., which has threatened to shutter The Boston Globe, is seeking deep concessions from the Globe’s largest union that could include pay cuts of up to 20 percent, the elimination of seniority rules and lifetime job guarantees, and millions of dollars in cuts in company contributions to retirement and healthcare plans.
The Times Co. proposal was detailed by union leaders last night at a membership meeting of the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents about 700 editorial, newsroom, and business office workers, about half the Globe’s union workforce.
The Times Co. is seeking $10 million in savings from the Guild, half of the $20 million the company says it needs from the Globe’s 13 unions to stave off a shutdown of the paper.
Without the union concessions and other cutbacks, the Globe is projected to lose $85 million this year, following a loss of about $50 million last year, according to an employee briefed on union discussions.
The long list of union givebacks was greeted with anger, concern, and sadness by some 200 union members who attended the meeting. Some were defiant. Others called on colleagues to recognize that sacrifices would have to be made. Many said they wanted to see management give up more in pay and benefits before they accept concessions.
"Right now, I’m very angry at the disrespect and disregard for the people who have given so much to this paper," said Kathy Connolly, who has worked in the classified advertising department for 28 years. "We have to fight."
Beth Daley, a reporter for 15 years and a union delegate, said the union can’t just reject concessions out of hand. "The industry is in a free fall, so no matter how mad we are, it’s clear we’ll have to give something back," she said. "We want to be fair, and we want to partner with management to share in the pain and the paper’s future survival."
Times Co. and Globe officials declined to comment.
The Times Co. and Globe management presented proposals to Guild leaders on Tuesday. The company began meeting with individual unions at the end of last week. At least two unions, representing press operators and drivers of delivery trucks, signed contracts last year that included 5 percent wage cuts and other givebacks.
The Times Co. recently imposed a 5 percent pay cut on nonunion management in exchange for 10 vacation days. In a memo to staff, Globe publisher P. Steven Ainsley said the management ranks have been cut by 20 percent. He indicated management would take additional cuts.
The proposals submitted by the Times Co. are subject to negotiation, and any concessions would have to be approved by a vote of the membership.
The Guild and management are to meet again Tuesday.
The list of possible concessions includes pay cuts, which could range from 5 to 20 percent, depending on what other cuts the union is willing to give up. For example, a pay cut could be lower if the union gives up paid holidays, union officials said.
Other concessions proposed by the Times Co. include the elimination of contributions to the pension fund and 401(k) retirement plans and a $1.5 million reduction in the company’s contribution to healthcare. The company also proposed the elimination of sick days, a 50 percent cut in severance pay for layoffs, and the lengthening of the workweek to 40 hours from 37.5.
Among the most controversial proposals are eliminating contract provisions that grant lifetime job protection to about 170 veteran Guild members and seniority rules that govern layoffs. Under the rules, the most recent hires are the first to be laid off.
Another management proposal seeks a one-time round of job cuts without regard to seniority, including those with job guarantees.
Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, called the seniority proposals "nonstarters."
Totten said the union recognizes the Globe’s financial problems, but the Times Co. proposals cut "too deeply." He said Guild workers have already given the company millions of dollars in a wage freeze and job cuts. Over the past several weeks alone, the Globe has cut about 80 jobs in the newsroom and advertising departments.
Totten said Times Co. and Globe management have to lead the way in making cuts, starting with returning bonuses awarded over the past few years. "It’s time for executives to give back," he said.
Robert Gavin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.