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Pioneer Press, union extend no-layoff guarantee through 2011

Another sign of hope that conditions have stabilized in the newspaper industry, at least for union workers: the St.

Another sign of hope that conditions have stabilized in the newspaper industry, at least for union workers: the St. Paul Pioneer Press Newspaper Guild agreed Friday to a six-month contract extension that now blocks layoffs through January 2012.

The deal is not all clover; PiPressers will continue to work a 37.5 hour week (with commensurate pay reductions from a 40-hour schedule). Management can institute up to five furlough days if execs give themselves and non-union workers the same unpaid time off.

After a couple of years of not replacing departing reporters, the PiPress has recently done so twice. In the past few weeks, editor Thom Fladung hired the Duluth News-Tribune’s Sarah Horner as his new north metro reporter, replacing Nancy Ngo, who slid into the shopping beat after Allison Kaplan left for Mpls.St.Paul magazine. 

The newsroom is even adding four weekend part-timers; Fladung says that will both enhance coverage and allow full-time employees to concentrate on weekday work.

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No one suggests that newspapers’ ongoing revenue challenges are over — the Star Tribune contract still expires this summer — but it’s nice to know everyone can at least breathe a bit easier in the coming months.

Here’s the staff note from Guild officials:

Guild members ratify contract extension with Pioneer Press

Members of the Newspaper Guild overwhelmingly ratified a six-month contract extension with the Pioneer Press on Friday.

The Guild’s contract now will expire Jan. 31, 2012, instead of July 31, 2011.  The reduced work week of 37.5 hours also will be extended to Jan. 31, 2012, as will a no-layoff guarantee.  The sunset date on early retiree medical insurance also will be extended to Jan. 31, 2012.

The work week will snap back to 40 hours on the contract expiration date of Jan. 31, 2012, and the no-layoff guarantee also will expire.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Pioneer Press may implement a furlough of up to five days for Guild-represented employees, provided it implements a furlough under the same terms for management and non-represented employees.  The terms of the furlough will be governed by the same negotiated terms as the furlough agreement reached in February 2009.