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On the ProJo Contract

As Ted Nesi over at WPRI reports, the union representing Providence Journal editorial and advertising staff has reached a tentative, three-year deal with the paper.

The deal comes out where most expected it would: a wage freeze for the union, unless other employees get something larger than a 2.5 percent raise during the three-year span of the contract. That's essentially a make-up provision: in 2009, the rest of the paper's employees took a 2.5 percent cut, but the union was not obligated to do so because of language in its contract.

The union, still stung by two waves of layoffs, offered to accept the cut in 2009 in exchange for job protections. But management balked. Similar efforts to win protections against layoffs in the new deal also sputtered. And not surprisingly - there's no way management would go for such a thing in the present media environment.

The new deal, which will probably go before the rank-and-file late next week or sometime the week of February 14, also requires employees to pay for 10 percent of most healthcare services, with a maximum out-of-pocket expense of $750 for individuals and $1500 for families. Members would also face deductibles of $100 and $200, respectively, for individuals and families.

I just spoke with John Hill, president of the guild. He said the contract "isn't going in the Hall of Fame."

"Five years ago, we would have laughed this off the table," he said. But Hill argued it needs to be seen in context - unions at some other New England papers are taking wage cuts, in some cases quite heavy. And at the ProJo's sister paper, the Dallas Morning News, employee health care costs are quite higher.

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