Tomorrow the Boston Newspaper Guild will vote on the proposed concession terms that the Guild has tentatively reached with the Boston Globe management. Members will vote on measures including an 8.3 percent wage cut, a five-day unpaid furlough, a freeze in pension contributions for many employees, an end to 401(k) matching contributions, and elimination of lifetime job guarantees enjoyed by 190 Guild members.
Last month, the New York Times Company threatened to close the Globe if its unions could not make enough concessions, and negotiations have dragged on for a week longer than the original May 1 deadline. The Guild is the largest and the last of seven unions to agree to concessions. Management has called this latest proposal its "last, best offer," a term which could lead to an impasse that would allow the company to declare an impasse and impose the offer.
Union leaders say they will put the offer to vote but do not plan on either endorsing or discouraging its ratification. The terms of the offer have not been officially released "out of respect" for members said Guild president Daniel Totten. In an e-mail to members he said, "We have a proposal to bring before members of The Boston Newspaper Guild. Since each member is the final authority on contract matters, it is imperative that we bring a proposal forward that will ultimately be voted on by the entire membership."
Guild member David Abel expressed displeasure about the secrecy, saying, "We're a news organization, and it's unbelievable that we have to wait so long for answers. We think it's only fair to learn about the agreement as soon as possible. There are a lot of jobs on the line, and a lot of anxiety."
What incentive do Guild members have to ratify a measure that will cut their pay, slash their benefits, and further threaten their job security? If they do not, the paper could close and they would not have jobs at all and could join the thousands of already unemployed journalists. On the other hand, accepting the proposal could just be a step towards signing their own death sentence and allowing management to fire them later. The Globe is projected to lose $85 million this year. Even if unions can make cost saving concessions, these concessions will not change the fact that the Globe is not a viable profit-generating asset for the NYTCo. The negotiations might be able to preserve the Globe for now, but the threat will not be over for the paper and its employees.
Source: Boston Globe