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Post-Gazette seeks wage cuts

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Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notified its unionized work force its wants significant concessions in a new labor contract that would replace a pact expiring at the end of March, according to a union memo.

The Pittsburgh Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America Local 38061 said in the memo to its members that the company has proposed wage concessions of 25 percent in the first year of a contract and 10 percent in the second year.

R.J. Hufnagel, president of the guild, declined to comment yesterday about the memo. The guild represents about 185 editorial and advertising employees at the newspaper. Under the current agreement, which was approved in February 2007, experienced reporters, photographers and editorial writers were to earn $1,105 a week in the third year of the pact.

Joseph Molinero, president of Teamsters Local 21, which represents drivers and mechanics, could not be reached for comment.

The guild and the Teamsters are among 10 unions that are part of the Pittsburgh Newspaper Unions Unity Council, whose three-year contracts will expire on March 31. Negotiations are expected to begin next month.

Christopher Chamberlain, president of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, declined to comment on the union negotiations, but noted that bargaining is occurring at "an incredibly challenging time for newspapers around the country ... so we will all need to work together here to manage beyond a survival mindset and through the transition that's happening."

The Post-Gazette, like other newspapers, has undergone a series of cost-cutting measures in the past two years that have included three rounds of buyouts to reduce the work force. The company is working through the latest round of buyouts for nonunion managers, and declined to comment on how many employees took a recently offered buyout.

Newspaper industry analyst John Morton of Morton Research Inc. of Silver Spring, Md., said it was not surprising that the Post-Gazette is following other papers in seeking concessions from its workers.

"They (Post-Gazette) are under as much stress as everybody else. In the last few years, unions have shown a willingness to be accommodating ... recognizing the difficulties in the business," Morton said. "The recession may be over, but not for newspapers."

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