Newspaper Guild approves contract with IGM

Posted: February 09, 2013

The union representing journalists and other workers at The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com voted Thursday night to approve a two-year contract that cuts wages by 2.5 percent.

The vote, at a Center City hotel, was 200-35, according to union officials.

It was the culmination of a months-long effort by Interstate General Media L.L.C. to lower its operating costs by wringing concessions out of the 11 unions who represent workers in all departments of the two daily newspapers and the website.

In early January, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, the largest of those unions, said Interstate General Media had indicated it would begin selling assets or liquidate should it not obtain contracts that lowered labor costs.

The Guild reopened a contract that was not due to expire until October. Contracts with the other unions, including those representing delivery truck drivers, pressmen, mailers, and paper handlers, had expired in October 2012.

In the end, all of the unions agreed through bargaining to deals involving concessions that several union leaders described as "tough." The labor negotiations were the first faced by an ownership group, composed of six local businessmen, that bought the media properties for $55 million in April.

Robert J. Hall, chief executive officer of Interstate General Media, has said the company "should be profitable" in 2013 under the new agreements. He had told employees that the newspapers were unprofitable in 2011 and 2012.

"Our local ownership is confident about the future and remains very committed to continuing to make our company a successful enterprise," the company said in a statement. "As Interstate General Media evolves and engages with our region, the future now provides a path to further development of new products and the implementation of greater efficiencies in all divisions of the company."

Guild officials said the new contract, which takes effect immediately, will save the company about $7.1 million in expenses.

In part, those savings come from a 2.5 percent wage cut for the 550 Guild members who work in the newsrooms and advertising, circulation, and finance departments. The contract continues to require 10 unpaid furlough days per year in 2013 and 2014. That is equivalent to a pay cut of an additional 4 percent, the Guild said.

Commissioned ad salespeople are not subject to furloughs but will face a 6 percent reduction in those commissions.

In addition, Interstate General Media agreed that there would be no layoffs of Guild members during the first year of the contract. However, a voluntary separation package, directed toward newsroom employees with a minimum of 30 years of seniority, is being offered through Friday.

Finally, Interstate General Media agreed to maintain the current printing schedule for its two daily newspapers in 2013 and 2014. However, the contract notes that no such guarantee applies to the publication Sportsweek.


Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or marmstrong@phillynews.com, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.

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