The Boston Globe's biggest union won some breathing space after its owner, The New York Times Co, said it will not file notice of its intention to close the newspaper, at least for now.
Six of the seven unions representing employees of the money-losing Globe reached tentative agreements with Times Co, which has threatened to shut the 137-year-old newspaper unless it agrees to $20 million in concessions.
But the future of New England's largest newspaper remained in doubt on Monday. Leaders of its biggest union, the Boston Newspaper Guild, left talks without a deal amid disagreement over lifetime job guarantees enjoyed by about 190 members, according to a Boston Globe report on the paper's website.
The Guild, representing some 600 workers including the newsroom staff, has sought to preserve lifetime job guarantees, saying their elimination would pave the way for layoffs of some of the paper's highest-paid veteran staff.
We expect to achieve both the workplace flexibility and the financial savings that we sought from these unions, Globe spokesman Robert Powers said in a statement.
We are not, therefore, making a filing today under the federal plant closing law, which requires companies to give 60-days notice to the state and employees before closing a business.
The Times Co had set midnight Friday as a deadline to extract $20 million in cuts from its unions to avoid closing the Globe, which it said could lose $85 million this year if no changes were made. That deadline was extended to Sunday.
Management was disappointed not to have reached an accord with the Guild, Powers said.
His statement did not rule out filing a notice to close the paper in the future.
We are evaluating our alternatives under both the Guild contract and applicable law to achieve as quickly as possible the workplace flexibility and remaining cost savings we need to help put The Globe on a sound financial footing, he said.
WHITE HOUSE EXPRESSES CONCERN
The Globe is one of the nation's most acclaimed regional newspapers, a winner of 20 Pulitzer Prizes that dominates news coverage in the six-state New England region, but the paper has faced steep circulation drops as readers go online for news.
Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and nine of the state's 10 members of the House of Representatives urged Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. last week to find a solution that would prevent shutting it.
The Obama administration voiced its concern for the paper but also expressed doubt that the government can help.
Obviously the president believes there has to be a strong free press. I think there's a certain concern and a certain sadness when you see cities losing their newspapers or regions of the country losing their newspapers. So, it's certainly of concern, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it.
If the Globe were closed, it would be the most prominent of the big city American newspapers to shutter, including EW Scripps Co's Rocky Mountain News and the print edition of Hearst Corp's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which both ended this year.
Two locals of the Teamsters union, which collectively represent about 450 Globe delivery drivers and mailers, reached agreements that would save the company about $7.5 million, according to media reports. Teamsters officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking a comment.
Accords with the other unions included changes to a system that provides lifetime employment to certain workers. The unions did not provide specific details.
Management rejected the Newspaper Guild's offer, which includes a 3.5 percent pay cut for most employees, an unpaid furlough, an increase in the early retirement age and a reduction in pension and 401(k) contributions, the Globe said.
The two sides have not set a time or location for the next round of talks, said a source who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The negotiations are done today, Guild President Daniel Totten told reporters in Weymouth, Massachusetts, where talks were held over the weekend. We will reconvene in short order, Totten said, according to the Globe website.
The source said it was possible talks could resume later Monday or on Tuesday.
A New York Times spokeswoman declined to comment.
New York Times shares were up 26 cents at $5.66 on the New York Stock Exchange in early afternoon trading.
Mary White, president of Teamsters Local 1, which represents 245 mailers, said the talks were very, very difficult. It hasn't been negotiations, it has been concessionary bargaining, she said on local WBZ radio.
It has been: 'What can you give up?' (Reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York and Scott Malone in Boston, editing by Jason Szep, Dave Zimmerman)