May 6, 2009 / 9:20 AM / 10 years ago

Boston Globe union, NY Times reach accord

BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Boston Globe’s biggest union reached a tentative accord on Wednesday with owner New York Times Co to secure the money-losing newspaper’s survival after a month of intense negotiations.

A morning delivery of the Boston Globe newspaper sits on a front porch in Medford, Massachusetts May 4, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The Boston Newspaper Guild, the lone hold-out of seven unions on a cost-cutting deal, agreed to a substantial pay cut, unpaid furloughs and changes in lifetime job guarantee provisions, the Globe reported on its Web site.

The agreement came around 3 a.m. EDT after about 10 hours of talks. Globe spokesman Robert Powers said the parties agreed not to release the details until Guild leadership speaks with members on Thursday.

“We’re happy that the conversation has gone to the next level,” Times Co chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr said in a brief interview in New York.

A report on the Globe Web site, citing anonymous sources, provided details of the concession, including modifications of lifetime job guarantees, a key sticking point.

“We have a proposal to bring before the members of the Boston Newspaper Guild. Out of respect to our members, we’re not disclosing any details until we meet with the membership,” Guild president Dan Totten told reporters.

Globe staff expressed relief their newspaper would stay in business though they also wanted to see the full extent of the deal. “There is some relief but it’s hard to form an opinion until we know all the details,” said Scott Helman, a Globe political reporter.

The Times Co, which bought the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993, threatened in early April to close the 137-year-old paper unless its unions agreed to $20 million of concessions to staunch $85 million of projected losses this year.

The future of New England’s largest newspaper hung in the balance during the month-long negotiations that stumbled over the contentious issue of lifetime job guarantees enjoyed by about 190 members of the Guild.

Representing some 600 workers including the newsroom staff, the Guild had sought to preserve lifetime job guarantees, saying their elimination would pave the way for layoffs of some of the paper’s highest-paid veteran staff.

A union representative was unavailable for comment.

MARATHON NEGOTIATIONS

The Globe is one of the nation’s most acclaimed regional newspapers, a winner of 20 Pulitzer Prizes that dominates news coverage in the six-state New England region, but the paper’s circulation has dropped steeply as readers go online for news.

Many U.S. newspapers including the Globe have lost 20 percent or more of their advertising revenue as circulation shrinks. The Globe’s average weekday circulation, for instance, fell 4 percent to 302,638 for the six months to March 31 from a year earlier, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Some media observers have speculated that the Times Co is preparing to get the Globe in decent enough financial shape to try to find someone to buy it. Sulzberger declined to comment on the company plans for the Globe.

He was speaking after holding a press conference at Pace University in New York to announce that the Globe and the Times Co were launching pilot projects to publish on a new version of Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle electronic book reader.

The Times Co threatened as late as on Sunday night to file notice with the U.S. government that it would close the Globe, but withdrew it on Monday, citing progress in negotiations.

Six other unions representing employees of the Globe have tentative agreements representing half of the $20 million in cuts the Times Co says the paper needs.

The Globe’s projected red ink, which follows losses of $50 million last year, comes at a difficult time for its New York owner, which ended 2008 with $1.1 billion of debt and recently reported a first-quarter net loss of $74.5 million.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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