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Vote’s timing complicates Globe-union talks (MS)

A new complication in the contract dispute between Boston Globe management and the newspaper’s largest union is delaying a resolution, union members and officials say.

The problem is the 23 percent pay cut the Globe and its owner, The New York Times Co., imposed on members of the Boston Newspaper Guild after the union rejected a $10 million package of concessions last week.

A new agreement appeared nearly in place Tuesday night, but how to deal with the draconian pay cut while the contract awaits ratification is holding up a resolution, these union members said.

In a note yesterday, Guild president Daniel Totten said union leaders are “focused on mitigating’’ the 23 percent cut.

The two sides are scheduled to meet Monday, although phone discussions continue in the meantime, union officials said.

The Globe’s spokesman, Robert Powers, declined to comment.

Under Guild bylaws, the union must wait at least 30 days to vote on a contract agreement. That means the nearly 700 members would have to absorb a huge pay cut for a month, something the union wants to avoid.

Several members have suggested holding the vote sooner, despite the bylaws, but the union’s lawyer said such a vote could be invalidated, Totten wrote.

The company, however, is reluctant to delay or soften the pay cuts, pending a ratification, because it could affect the implementation of concessions approved by other unions, according to union members. Mailers, press operators, and delivery truck drivers agreed to wage and benefit cuts totaling nearly $10 million, but they are contingent on the company’s gaining $10 million in savings from the Guild, either through a new contract or by imposing the pay cut.

If the company delayed imposing the Guild pay cuts pending ratification, it might have to do the same for the other unions, deferring savings it says it needs to stabilize the money-losing newspaper.

“I want the Guild to get an agreement without the 23 percent pay cut,’’ said Martin Callaghan, president of the Boston Newspaper Printing Pressmen’s Union, Local 3. “We would certainly be willing to postpone implementation of our agreement if it would help the Guild.’’

The Guild is the only major union that has not approved concessions sought by the Times Co., which in April threatened to close the paper unless it could gain $20 million in savings from Globe unions.

Members of other unions have been watching the standoff between the Guild and management carefully.

Some have cheered the Guild for rejecting the company’s offer and seeking a better deal, hoping that their unions, too, might be able to get a better deal if the Guild succeeds.

“I was happy somebody had the guts to stand up to them,’’ said Globe driver Jim Trainor, 57. His union, Teamsters Local 259, which represents more than 200 drivers, approved $2.5 million in wage and benefit cuts this month.

But press operator Kevin Toomey, 48, who has worked at the Globe 31 years, said the Guild’s stance is risky. “If it’s a strategic move, I hope they’re doing the right thing,’’ he said. “I don’t want to see anyone take that kind of pay cut.’’

Robert Gavin can be reached at