Two unions representing Seattle Times news, sales, and print-production units have tentatively agreed to economic cuts to keep Seattle's last remaining major daily newspaper alive, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild said yesterday. The changes are expected to be ratified by union members next week. Concessions sought by Times ownership and agreed to by union reps include freezing 1.5 percent pay increases scheduled for news, library, advertising, marketing and circulation workers on June 1 and Dec. 1 this year. Employees will also be asked to ratify one week (unpaid) furloughs this year and next (except for those who work less than 40 hours). The give-backs constitute about four percent of a total 12 percent reduction sought by the company; the other eight percent comes from an already-approved two-year pension freeze. The Guild agreed the cuts were necessary after an independent review of Times books pronounced the company's financial condition as "serious."
Negotiators from the Communications Workers of America, representing composing room workers (nee printers), also tentatively agreed to such concessions as suspension of incentive pay, wage freeze, six furlough days in 2009 and nine furlough days in 2010. A pension surcharge is also up for approval, along with a pay cut for two employees earning over scale. The unions' concessions are slated to be restored at the end of 2010. Non-union employees have also suffered cuts, including furloughs, and pay and pension freezes. The Times has been cutting costs and staff for two years, including 500 positions last year. About 100 of those cuts were in the newsroom, now with a staff of about 215. Times publisher Frank Blethen recently told legislators that he and other newspaper owners "are literally holding on by our fingertips." A new state budget paper indicates a 43 percent rollback on newspapers' B&O taxes sought by Blethen will pass, saving him and fellow publishers $2 million over the next two years.