Boston Globe Guild Deal Weeks Away?

The tentative agreement between The Boston Globe and the Newspaper Guild, reached in the early morning hours today, may not be voted on for several weeks, according to a union leader.

Details of the deal–which reportedly includes a wage cut, furloughs and a change to the newspaper’s controversial lifetime job guarantees–are expected to come out later today. But the union is likely to use the entire 30-day period it legally has to vote on the agreement, ensuring at least some continued tension over its impact.

“It is my understanding that the union will probably need 30 days to absorb this and schedule a vote,” said Beth Daley, a union delegate and Globe reporter. “We are in a game-changing situation right now. In my opinion, there is an awful lot to absorb and deal with.”

With 700 members eligible to vote on the agreement, a landslide approval is not expected. “This is going to be difficult to swallow for many,” said one newsroom staffer.

The agreement also comes after several roller-coaster weeks during which parent New York Times Co. threatened to close the paper if $20 million in givebacks were not approved by six unions, including the Guild. After six other unions agreed, the Guild was the one bargaining unit left and had not forged a deal by last Friday’s deadline.

By Sunday, Globe officials said they would begin the process of closing the paper, then pulled back Monday. After talks resumed last night, it reached a point in the middle of the negotiations where the Times Company wanted a 23 percent wage cut.

“They shelved the idea of that,” said Keith O’Brien, one of two reporters who have been covering the talks for the Globe. “It is wage cuts, some sort of furlough and a modification of the lifetime guarantee.”

The other six unions who have already reached tentative agreements must vote on their packages a well. If the Guild waits 30 days, those unions might also put off votes to see what kind of deal the guild has gotten, and if it is approved. This could all delay the final closure of the situation for weeks.

In the guild’s case, the lifetime agreement–given to some 200 longtime staffers decades ago–was a sticking point. Guild sources said the guild had been holding back on giving it up until some financial return was made. It is believed there will be extended severance for those who give up lifetime guarantees and are later laid off.

O’Brien said the ongoing talks have kept nerves on edge in the newsroom. “It has been stressful for everyone at the paper, it is a tense time.”