The Boston Globe May Be For Sale As Tense Labor Talks Continue

Boston Newspaper Guild president Dan Totten responded on Tuesday evening after the New York Times Company, which owns the Boston Globe, announced a 23 percent pay cut for Guild members at the struggling newspaper. In addition to trying to cut costs, the Times Company may also be seeking to sell the Globe, which posted a $50 million operating loss last year and is poised to lose another $85 million in 2009. According to an article published in the Globe, two sources who are interested in buying the paper say the NYTCO has hired Goldman Sachs to review offers for the Globe. Cutting costs at the paper would help relieve financial pressures at the Times Company, which recently reported losses of $74.5 million for the first quarter of this year and could also make the the Globe more attractive to prospective buyers. Last month, the Times Company threatened to close the Boston Globe unless the paper’s unions agreed to $20 million in cuts.

The pay cut came after the Guild, which is the largest union at the Globe, voted on Monday to reject $10 million in budget cuts proposed by the Times Company by a narrow margin of 277 to 265. The Globe has released a statement saying management is disappointed that the Guild rejected their original proposal, which would have led to and 8.3 percent wage cut and elimination of lifetime job guarantees for about 190 Guild members. The plan called for Guild members who lose their lifetime guarantees to receive a $33,000 payment and severance if they are laid off. Guarantees have been a major sticking point throughout the month of talks between the Globe’s management and unions. The Boston Newspaper Guild also released a petition calling for the NYTCO to “to negotiate in good faith and agree to third-party mediation.” Reportedly, potential buyers for the Globe won’t be submitting bids until the Guild situation is resolved– and that could take quite some time.

In his statement, Totten said that “with their vote Monday night, Guild members refused to be bullied and said they will not tolerate a punitive attack on their livelihoods.” Though Totten made sure to point out that Guild members “understand that they must make sacrifices” because of the “great economic challenge facing the Boston Globe and our entire industry,” he described the 23 percent pay cut as a “drastic and extreme move.” The Boston Newspaper Guild has filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board arguing that the NYTCO is negotiating in bad faith. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the NLRB complaint “could tie the paper up in legal proceedings for months, if not years” and may prompt the New York Times Company to return to the bargaining table with the Guild.

The NYTCO and the Guild are scheduled to meet on Monday. Totten says they will be working “toward a realistic and fair agreement on wages, benefits and work rules that we believe can be endorsed by this union leadership and passed by all our members.” Globe spokesman Robert Powers says the meeting is being held to discuss implementation of the pay cuts.

The other unions representing staff at the Globe have agreed to $10 million in concessions proposed by the NYTCO. With the 23 percent pay cut for Guild members would make The New York Times Company says they have “achieved the $20 million in savings we needed.” In a statement released after the cuts were announced, a Times Company spokesperson said “we do not foresee closure at this time and are focused on executing the Globe’s turnaround plan.”

Disclosure: Hunter Walker worked as a corporate communications intern at the New York Times Company from August 2006 to May 2007.

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