UPDATE 4-Boston Globe union rejects cuts, Times to slash pay
* Boston Newspaper Guild votes 277-265 against concessions
* Guild says Times must improve its offer
* Globe says will cut pay 23 pct, effective next week (Adds Boston University professor comment)
By Robert MacMillan
NEW YORK, June 8 (Reuters) - The Boston Globe's largest union narrowly rejected concessions on Monday that owner New York Times Co said would save $10 million, raising the possibility of the 137-year-old daily newspaper's demise.
Members of the Boston Newspaper Guild voted 277-265 against accepting the concessions, which include an 8.4 percent pay cut, one-week unpaid furloughs and other cuts.
The rejection raises the tension between the Globe and its largest union and casts the survival of one of the most respected U.S. daily newspapers into doubt.
The Globe will cut union member pay by 23 percent as of next week to get the savings that it needs, the newspaper's management said in a statement released a little more than an hour after the union released the results of the vote.
"We regret having to take this action but have no financially viable alternative," spokesman Robert Powers said.
The next steps are uncertain. The union has said it would challenge the move before the National Labor Relations Board, and the Times Co (NYT.N) has threatened to close the newspaper if it could not get $20 million in savings from seven unions.
It wanted $10 million in cuts from the newspaper guild.
Globe officials were not immediately available for comment on whether closing the newspaper remained an option.
"This is hardball of a degree that we may not have seen at any point before," said Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University's College of Communication and former Miami Herald editor. "Is The New York Times willing to... be in a position of shutting down one of the great newspapers in the country?"
Six other unions have agreed to the concessions, leaving the Boston Newspaper Guild as the only holdout.
"With today's vote, members of the Boston Newspaper Guild have said that the New York Times Company must do better than the offer that was presented," Guild President Dan Totten said in a statement. "The Boston Newspaper Guild is committed to resuming good-faith negotiations with the New York Times Company and Globe management to reach an agreement."
The results of the vote were posted on the Boston Newspaper Guild's website on Monday evening. About 80 percent of the 690 members cast ballots at the Globe's office on Monday.
Despite the close vote, there was little sign of strain among Globe colleagues as they prepared Tuesday's paper, according to reports from the newsroom.
Still, the Times Co's pay cut will be hard if it is allowed to go into effect.
"I figured I could absorb a 10 percent pay cut plus a reduction in benefits. There's no way I can absorb a 23 percent pay cut," said Erin Ailworth, 28, who joined the Globe as a reporter in 2007 and voted for the concessions.
"There is a small, small glimmer of hope... Maybe we'll go back to the bargaining table."
VOTE SHOWS BITTERNESS
The union's "no" vote comes after it and the Times Co had reached a tentative accord a little more than a month ago on the cuts, which also include the elimination of other benefits, including lifetime job guarantees and an end to matching contributions to 401(k) retirement plans.
Some guild members have become disenchanted with the perception that New York Times Co and Globe managers were doing well financially while union members had to sacrifice.
The cuts are higher than the 5 percent pay cuts that other Times Co employees were saddled with earlier this year.
The Globe, which the Times bought for $1.1 billion in 1993, is on track to lose $85 million this year, the Times Co has said. Its troubles come during the same year that newspapers such as The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News have shut down.
The Globe's closure would leave the city with the Boston Herald, a smaller tabloid-sized daily that would not be able to provide the Globe's breadth of investigative and daily coverage, Fiedler said.
"What we're looking at here is a really a serious blow to the civic health of this community," he said.
Most of the more than 1,400 U.S. daily papers are suffering steep declines in advertising revenue, accelerated by the recession, as more people get their news online for free. The Times, like some publishers, also is trying to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
Thousands of newspaper employees across the country have been laid off, taken pay cuts or been furloughed. Others are scrimping and saving as ad sales and circulation fall.
Ailworth will leave her apartment and save money by moving in with a roommate. "It's not like I or any of my colleagues are living exorbitantly," she said.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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