Labor Pains at the Globe

With the contract between Boston Globe management and the Guild (which represents about 1100 staffers including newsroom employees) having expired on Dec. 31, labor tensions appear to be heating up at the paper. Here's the first six graphs of a rather pointed Feb. 7 letter written to and aimed at publisher Richard Gilman and signed by most of the members of the Guild's 28-person governing board, according to Guild president Dan Totten:

The decision to outsource the work of the Globe’s Maintenance department was a disgrace and affront to our membership, and puts a question mark next to the Company’s dedication and commitment to its product and its employees.


Recent published reports have shown that you received a bonus of $1.55 million in shares and stock options while the Maintenance outsourcing process was ongoing.


The Union questions the ethics of accepting such a bonus during times the Company repeatedly calls economically challenging, times so dire they “required” the Maintenance outsourcing and prior job reductions through Streamline to Grow and the General Buyout.  Coincidentally, the Guild has been told the Maintenance outsourcing will save the Company about $1.5 million.


To take millions of dollars in bonus money, continue to award management bonuses, and create new high-level management positions seems to show a neglect of fiduciary duty for, to borrow a phrase we have consistently heard from Globe labor management representatives, “a struggling company and industry.”


The Guild inquired on many occasions over the past eight months whether rumors of outsourcing were true, particularly since we saw various cleaning contractors brought through the building.  Yet the Company denied its plans every time the question was posed.


The Company’s denials concern us greatly, and leave us to wonder if there will be other targets in the future and where they will be, and more important, whether the Company will be forthright in its plans.

In a response to Media Log, Globe spokesman Al Larkin said:

"The union apparently feels that releasing its letters to the media will somehow embarrass us or pressure us into not doing what we believe is best for the newspaper and our employees. We don't think it's appropriate to air our responses to the union, other than to correct certain inaccuracies and to say that its tactics will not deter us from making the decisions that need to be made."

Another area of dispute is the union's citing of Gilman's bonus of $1.55 million in shares and stock options, a number published in a recent Boston magazine story. Larkin asserts that the figure "characterized as a bonus in the Boston magazine article is actually part of an executive compensation plan," adding that the Globe put the actual figure at "about a third" of the published $1.55 million price tag.


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