Boston Globe representatives insisted for days that Monday’s meeting between the paper and the Boston Newspaper Guild would be purely informational, focusing on the imposition of a 23 percent wage cut on union members following the defeat of a $10 million concessions package. Apparently, both sides got enough “information” to move into full-blown discussions about how to get out of this mess: the Globe reports they talked until early Tuesday morning — more than 13 hours — before breaking with plans to meet again this afternoon.
So what’s changed since last Monday, when a narrow majority of Globe Guild members voted down the package? For one, the folks who thought the New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) would back down and come right back to the bargaining table found out very quickly that their paychecks were about to be cut by nearly a quarter — a much higher immediate loss than an 8.5 percent pay cut, a five-day unpaid furlough and benefit cuts. And through his response to a letter and petition, those who still thought he might, learned that Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., wasn’t going to rescue them.
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At the same time, the Globe, whose execs knew intellectually what to expect, started to get a taste of the damage that could be inflicted on possible sale hopes and other efforts by a long-running labor dispute. The Guild filed an immediate complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and the first hearing was supposed to be today and is being postponed. Then add in hundreds of staffers worried literally about losing their homes or paying for their cars, instead of being able to focus on their jobs. Selling the Globe will be hard enough; selling it while fighting with its largest union would be next to impossible.
The Guild wants a sign that management will be hurt by cuts as much as they are. Management wants that $10 million and concessions allowing any Guild member to be laid off so it can show investors and prospective buyers that the Globe is on the right track. I’ll join Dan Kennedy and others in believing there’s a resolution to this. No one really wants to go off the cliff.