Globe drivers' union approves $2.5m in cuts

Boston Newspaper Guild to vote tomorrow on $10m in concessions

By Robert Gavin
Globe Staff / June 7, 2009
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The union representing more than 200 Boston Globe delivery truck drivers today approved $2.5 million in wage and benefit cuts, leaving only one major union to ratify concessions that the Globe’s owner, the New York Times Co., says it needs to continue to operate the paper.

Members of Teamsters Local 259 voted 89 to 69 to ratify the concessions, which come just six months after the drivers had given up $2.5 million in an earlier contract. Ralph Giallanella, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said the vote was a difficult one for his members to make, but the alternative – a potential shutdown – was far worse.

"This local stepped up not only to save their jobs, but the jobs of everyone who works at the Boston Globe," Giallanella said.

With the drivers, six Globe unions have approved concessions which together are worth slightly more than $10 million.

The Times Co. is seeking a total of $20 million in savings from Globe unions or else it may shutter the money-losing paper. The Globe, New England's largest, is on track to lose about $85 million this year as the recession decimates advertising revenue and the Internet lures more readers online.

Now the focus turns to the Boston Newspaper Guild, the paper’s largest union which represents more than 600 editorial, advertising and business office workers. Members are scheduled to vote tomorrow on $10 million in concessions.

The company’s contract offer to the Guild would slash pay by about 10 percent, cut health and retirement benefits and eliminate lifetime job guarantees for some veteran members.

The Times Co. has threatened to impose a 23 percent across-the-board pay cut should members reject the offer. Guild officials have told members that they would quickly launch a legal challenge to block any such move by the company.

The Guild’s ratification vote has been particularly contentious. Unlike other unions, the Guild’s leaders did not reach a tentative agreement with the company, but only said they would bring it to members for a vote, without a recommendation.

While union leaders have not explicitly called for members to reject the offer, they have signaled in several ways they would not be displeased if members voted it down. Guild president Daniel Totten has said that he will vote “no” in the hope of negotiating a better deal.

Meanwhile, some rank-and-file newsroom employees recently circulated a petition calling on Globe management to limit pay cuts to 5 percent to match cuts imposed on non-union managers. The members argued that management's proposed 10 percent pay cut for the Guild would put the contract "in extraordinary danger" of rejection. Management has said the Globe's financial situation is too urgent to go through another round of negotiations.

The Globe's machinists union, which represents fewer than 30 workers, so far are the only union to reject concessions. The union voted earlier today to reject an undisclosed amount of concessions. Globe spokesman Robert Powers said the machinists vote "will not affect the $20 million in needed costs savings from our major unions."