How the Strib, newsroom union cut $2.4 million

Details of last night’s tentative Strib newsroom contract agreement are in my clammy hands, and for those of you interested in how 10 percent ($2.4 million) is cooperatively sliced from the newsroom’s budget, here are management’s big savings:

♦ $866,000 by a 16-month wage freeze. (Another $170,000 is saved through tiny subsequent increases: 1.25 percent in December 2009, 1 percent the following June and 1.5 percent in January 2011. The contract expires in July 2011.)

♦ $400,000 via six buyouts. Before management can lay anyone off, they have to offer three buyouts in “professional” positions, and three to support positions. If too many people sign up, seniority determines who gets bought out. There is no layoff protection.

♦ $350,000 by freezing three line-worker vacancies and one management opening.

If you’re doing the math, we’re three-quarters of the way there, and the rest is pretty technical stuff. There are a few other details that may affect what readers see in the paper:

♦ There will be more freelance pieces. The current contract limits the total to 240 annually; that goes up to 360. Freelancers still can’t write news stories, but can do “opinion” or “expert” pieces like reviews.

♦ A new “diversity” apprenticeship program is created; a maximum of six apprentices at any one time. They can work up to 24 months at first- and second-year pay scales, and are the first to be laid off. Given buyouts and position freezes, this provides content more inexpensively, by those with much less experience.

If you’re way into inside baseball, here are a few other notable provisions:

♦ Stribbers, who now pay 26 percent of their healthcare premiums, will pay 32 percent beginning in 2009.

♦ Early retirees who leave between ages 55 and 65 won’t get retiree medical coverage after next March 1. Current retirees still get the option.

♦ Guild members continue to get a supplemental pension of 2.5 percent of their salary every August. Unlike many companies, the Strib pension is overfunded (a credit to previous owner McClatchy Cos. and savvy investing), which keeps this spiff alive.

I’ve only done the briefest temperature-taking, but I’ve detected much acceptance and a little relief; I have some feelers out to rumored critics. As previously noted, Guild members are scheduled to vote on the deal July 23.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/18/2008 - 04:02 pm.

    Another proof that health insurance should not be tied to employment and that employers who still provide insurance should, instead of shifting the cost burden to their employees with various co-pays and deductibles, strongly support single payer universal health care.

    This would remove the expense of purchasing insurance and administering its use from employers, would assure access to decent health care from freely chosen providers to every person (and end that terrible fear that one will get sick or break a toe before finding a new job with benefits), and would save us, according to Dr. David Himmselstein of Harvard, about $350 billion per years in administrative costs alone.

    And why don’t we make that change? Because we have let the insurance industry manage our system to maximize its own profits instead of our health care.

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