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A bit more on the Star Tribune’s newsroom contract

More on how pay cuts are distributed, and how seniority will be weakened.
By David Brauer

As details about the Strib’s newsroom contract emerge, just wanted to add a few things to this post from earlier in the day. It’s even wonkier than usual.

I mentioned that some reclassified Star Tribune designers, layout editors and scattered other employees would take a 5 percent hit beyond the 3 percent across-the-board wage cuts. Turns out other designers, copy editors and scattered workers — including Guild co-chair and arts writer Graydon Royce — will take a bigger hit: about 9 percent, or roughly $7,000 a year.

That cut will be doled out in three phases between August 2009 and June 2011 — as will the loss of “night differential,” bonus pay for workers whose regular shifts extend after 8 p.m. or before 6 a.m. The folks who get the Strib out each evening will see about a $3,500 cut. By the way, management has successfully phased out night differential company-wide.

Then there’s merit pay, sliced 30 percent across the board, though it varies widely among workers. The biggest cluster figures to lose about $2,500 a year, though management has a pool of money to restore some of that.

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The proposed contact prevents workers from suffering all of these blows. Reclassified workers won’t take the merit pay hit. Nightsiders won’t see reduced merit pay or the 3 percent wage cut.

The median newsroom worker at the Strib has been there 15 years, meaning most are at top scale in their job categories: $77,000 for Guild editors; $73,400 for designers/layout editors; $69,800 for reporters, copy editors and photographers; $59,000 for reference librarians; $45,600 for researchers and assistants. That doesn’t include night differential or merit pay. Most workers I’ve talked to today estimate they’ll ultimately lose between 5 and 10 percent of their paychecks.

On management’s new seniority exemptions: the proposed contract limits them to 12 a year, and 20 percent on any individual buyout/layoff round.

So if management announced it was laying off 50 positions of the 275-person newsroom, it could protect 10 lower-seniority favorites. If there was another 30-person cut within the year, management would qualify for six exemptions but could only use two. (10+2 = 12.)

By the way, I was taken to task in earlier comments for inadequately describing the designer’s role. Conveniently, Save The Strib added a nice encapsulation today.