Monday, July 12, 2004

GUILD AGREES TO GLOBE CONTRACT. How long had Boston Globe newsroom employees been working without a contract? Not long ago I ran into an old colleague at a party. He'd been at the Globe for some time. And he told me, laughing, that he'd never worked under a union contract.

Until now - or, rather, soon. Today the Globe and the Boston Newspaper Guild announced they had reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract. Here's the press release, in full:

BOSTON, MA - Monday, July 12, 2004 - The Boston Globe and the Boston Newspaper Guild, Local 31245, announced today that they have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor pact covering a term from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2005. The agreement is subject to ratification by the union's rank and file membership scheduled for August 5, 2004.

The wages for the first four years reflect the pattern increases in place with the Globe's other unions of approximately 7.5% in increases for Guild members over that span. The newspaper and the union also negotiated a $12 per week increase for January 1, 2005 and a further $12.50 per week increase on July 1, 2005, constituting an approximate combined increase of 2.14 percent.

The new agreement provides significant new operating flexibility for the Globe aimed at making it more competitive in a changing media marketplace. In return, the Globe agreed as a quid pro quo for such flexibility to increases in funding for the Guild's Health Plan that will result in significantly reduced health care payroll contributions by Guild covered employees.

"The new agreement represents a fair balancing of the competitive needs of the Globe in a changing marketplace with the needs of our employees to have appropriate protections with such changes as well as addressing the rising health care costs impacting everyone," said Globe Senior Vice President and lead company negotiator Greg Thornton. Steve Richards, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, said of the tentative agreement: "It was a long and difficult negotiation but the union's negotiating committee feels this tentative agreement brings stability to our health fund, which was one of our primary goals. We also feel it protects our members and our union while giving the Globe added business flexibility."

Both the Globe and the Boston Newspaper Guild declined to comment further on the pact until the union's ratification meeting August 5. The agreement culminates more than three and a half years of negotiations between the parties.

It looks like the Globe, at any rate, will have labor peace during the Democratic National Convention. Would that Boston mayor Tom Menino - still tied up in an ugly dispute with the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association - could say the same.

But notice that three and a half years of the Globe contract is retroactive, and that the five-year period that it covers expires in just 17 months. Assuming it gets ratified, it sounds like the negotiators ought to take maybe a week off - and then return to the negotiating table.

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