Guild to New York Times: No Thanks


What do you mean youre out of hot towels?

What do you mean you're out of hot towels?

Blame Thomas Friedman.

Last month, the New York Times columnist talked frankly about his unlimited expense budget and how he can jump on  airplanes and whisk off to Iceland and India whenever he wants.

Not a great idea when the New York Times Co. is squeezing your colleagues at the Boston Globe for more than $10 million in wage and benefits cutbacks.  The New York Times Co. wants a total of $20 million in cuts from the Globe workforce in order to save the struggling newspapers – which some reports have losing up to $85 million this year.

Last night, the Boston Newspaper Guild – perhaps thinking about Friedman sitting in first-class sipping champagne – told the New York Times Co. it would not accept its reduction package and wanted to head back to the negotiating table.  The Guild is the largest union at the Boston Globe representing almost 700 workers, including journalists.

Since it could not get the Guild to accept its proposed cuts, the Times Co. in return immediately slashed Guild salaries by 23 percent (the cuts go into effect next week) in order to reach its goal of trimming $10 million from Guild employees.  Expect the Guild to sue.

The vote was close: 277-265, so it is odd that the Times Co. would not sweeten the deal a tad and then call for another vote.  Why drag the whole mess into court and further alienate your workforce?

The Times Co. has made several mistakes leading up to the vote – including the threat to close the newspaper if it didn’t get what it wanted.  That threat was later carefully retracted and now looks like nothing more than a dramatic flourish to frighten employees into accepting deep cuts in their salaries and benefits.  As the old saw goes: if you draw your weapon, you’d better be willing to use it.

So what happens next?  Difficult to say.  But the shutdown of the newspaper is unlikely.

Only one thing is for sure: litigation.

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