Was in a MinnPost staff meeting (yes, we have those!) Friday afternoon when the news broke that the Pioneer Press Newspaper Guild overwhelmingly approved contract concessions amounting to about 10 percent of their pay. That verdict, sadly, was no shock given this week’s news about the paper’s unprofitability.
PiPresser Leslie Brooks Suzukamo’s story provides a few more details on the paper’s financial condition. As noted here Thursday, the paper has positive cash flow, confirms publisher Guy Gilmore. But according to the union, that only occurred in 2007 and 2009 when by excluding debt and interest payments, taxes and depreciation (the latter a write-down of items such as printing presses).
Debt payments — while reduced by PiPress holding company Affiliated Media’s bankruptcy — will continue to weigh down the PiPress balance sheet. A plan filed Friday anticipates $930 million in debt reduced to $165 million for the 54-daily, 100-plus non-daily chain, and the St. Paul paper will presumably pick up its share.
Suzukamo reports that rising expenses contributed to the paper’s red ink; Guild cuts of $1 million to $2 million will help the Affiliated Media overlords there. The story also notes that the PiPress printers contract expires March 31 and negotiations begin next week. That area might be ripe for outsourcing to the Star Tribune; a renegotiated union deal during the Minneapolis paper’s bankruptcy made it easier, and cheaper, to bring in such work.