San Francisco Chronicle union OKs concessions

NEW YORK Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:42pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Members of the San Francisco Chronicle's largest union have agreed to contract concessions that parent company Hearst Corp says are essential to keeping the newspaper open.

Members of the California Media Workers Guild voted by a 10-1 margin to approve concessions that would allow the Chronicle to cut at least 150 union jobs and eliminate various benefits and rights, according to a statement on the union's website posted on Saturday evening.

New York-based Hearst had threatened to close the paper unless it could secure immediate concessions. The company also says that it may close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, or possibly take it online only with a much smaller staff. A decision may come next week.

"This agreement is critical to ensuring the survival of The Chronicle," Publisher Frank Vega said in a statement. "I appreciate the willingness of our employees to work with us to make the difficult decisions that need to be made during these difficult times."

The 144-year-old newspaper lost more than $50 million in 2008 and may lose more this year, Hearst has said.

The Guild represents 483 Chronicle employees -- 218 in editorial and 265 in advertising, circulation, finance, ad production and other functions, the paper said on its website.

The paper now must negotiate a deal with its other major union, the 420-member local of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The plight of the Chronicle and Post-Intelligencer is symptomatic of troubles affecting other U.S. newspapers. Some are losing money and could shut down. Others are profitable, but their publishers must repay hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.

Newspaper advertising revenue has fallen as more people get their news online and the financial crisis has accelerated that decline.

(Reporting by Robert MacMillan, editing by Alan Elsner)

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