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Boston Newspaper Guild hammers Globe management

If you thought that the recent decision by Boston Globe drivers to accept a wage cut and fewer holidays meant that Globe management was successfully making the case for austerity to the paper's employees, think again.

Yesterday--in advance of a December 9 meeting on the possible re-opening of the contract of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the paper's largest union--BNG head Dan Totten sent a memo to Globe management that excoriated management's approach to employee relations.

As Totten himself notes, 500 BNG employees have lost their jobs over the last eight years, so the union isn't exactly working from a position of strength. Be that as it may--and allowing for the fact that there may be some brinksmanship involved--his memo suggests that the BNG isn't quite ready to follow the drivers' lead.

Here's the full text.

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December 2, 2008

To: P. Stephen Ainsley
      Harriet Gould
      Greg Thornton

FROM: Daniel Totten, President BNG

RE: New York Times Labor Relations at The Boston Globe

The Boston Newspaper Guild is extremely concerned about the actions, focus and direction the NYT has taken in its leadership of The Boston Globe, particularly the last several years.

For the last several years (including the last round of BNG-2006, Globe CBA negotiations) the BNG had requested comprehensive financial information relative to BNG covered units of New England Media Group.

The NYT/Globe has chosen to not provide the requested information. 

On June 3, 2008, Globe management along with a representative of NYT, met with union leadership.  At this meeting the Globe quickly showed some revenue figures on an overhead screen, featuring the tiniest of font sizes, making readability virtually impossible.  The Globe did not provide anything in writing on the information provided.

The Globe continues to refuse to provide financials to the BNG, citing its need for a confidentiality agreement that would eliminate the BNG Executive Committee from communicating financials to its members.

The BNG is fine with signing a confidentiality agreement, and we have offered a confidentiality agreement, which the Globe refuses to discuss.

The NYT/Globe in the June 3, 2008 meeting with union leaders stressed the need for ‘collaboration’.  The word collaboration has appeared several more times in various messages from NYT/Globe leadership to employees.

We question:
•    Is ‘collaboration’ providing only financials that the company wishes to show and nothing more?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ imposing a gag on BNG leadership as a condition of The Globe’s offer for the union to review financial information?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ The Globe’s failure to provide, as required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, appropriate 30 day notice to layoff BNG members?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ blindsiding BNG members with layoffs three weeks before Thanksgiving?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ refusing to meet with the BNG, citing negotiations with other unions as a priority a reasonable foundation for labor relations?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ the layoff of longtime Guild members from Living Arts Department, while The Globe acknowledges the quality will be lost by such a move?  The Globe’s response, “We have to make some tough decisions”?   Is ‘collaboration’ when ‘tough decisions’ constantly eliminate BNG members and erode Globe quality?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ when senior management informs its sales staff that they should feel guilty about recent layoffs?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ when NYT/Globe Labor Relations managers chose to violate the contract and would rather arbitrate matters than negotiate?
•    Is ‘collaboration when the Globe’s top 20 executives are paid approximately $4.9 million in base salary for 2007, not to mention another $4 million in bonuses? 
•    Is ‘collaboration’ when the NYT moves into a lavish billion dollar Manhattan corporate office while the BNG is now moving into the 4th year of a wage freeze?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ when the Globe’s Business Financial Operations and Home Delivery operations are outsourced to Bangalore, India and Manilla, respectively, with dramatic negative results, lost customers, lost revenues, incorrect billing, frustrated and irate customers who drop their subscriptions out of an inefficient business process, and when this is pointed out to the Globe, it falls on deaf ears?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ putting forth items for a contract reopener that are not agreed upon as reopener issues?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ using the elimination of some 31 management positions to influence other unions into ratifying their contracts?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ $120 million in a computer system (SAP) while Globe attempts to move the Guild related work?
•    Is ‘collaboration’ when the company ignores the BNG’s request for proper training on new technology as negotiated, and the Globe fails to supply such training?

The BNG has lost some 500 members; talented, quality human beings, over the last 8 years through various reduction programs.

The NYT seems not to focus on The Boston Globe, its superior workforce and quality product.

The only goal of the New York Times is to take from it’s most vital resource – The Boston Newspaper Guild members.

The Boston Newspaper Guild is always ready, willing and able to collaborate.

Any such efforts begin with the New York Times grasping the two-dimensional aspect of the word collaboration, and with the NYT showing greater respect toward the Boston Newspaper Guild.

We’ve given more than our share and seen our paychecks diminish while NYT continues to TAKE at the expense of BNG members.

cc:    D. Wanger

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