Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It's Baack! Unsinkable N.Y. Post Survives Another Near-Death Experience as Murdoch Buys the Paper; Newspaper Guild Unit Isn't as Lucky

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

It's Baack! Unsinkable N.Y. Post Survives Another Near-Death Experience as Murdoch Buys the Paper; Newspaper Guild Unit Isn't as Lucky

Article excerpt

WHEN THE LABOR strife abated at the New York Post last week, another troubled New York tabloid had a new lease on life -- and another Newspaper Guild unit was broken.

And Rupert Murdoch, by demonstrating that he would let the Post die rather than give in to the Guild, added another union scalp to his belt.

Closed three days when the Guild walked out -- nine production unions struck in sympathy and Murdoch shut the doors, New York's feistiest tabloid snapped back to life Oct. 1, when unions representing 400 production workers crossed picket lines to bring the Post back from yet another vigil on death's doorstep.

The production unions, which earlier agreed to contracts designed to save the paper $6.2 million a year, broke ranks with the Guild reluctantly and in the belief that it was the only way to save their jobs.

"We're going in. Not that we want to. We have to," drivers union president Frank Sparacino said as members massed to surge past Guild pickets into the Post's loading docks and break the strike after three missed editions.

The Guild struck over Murdoch's demand for the right to fire workers at will for four months and his refusal to assume severance obligations from previous contracts worth millions of dollars.

The Post rejoins its tabloid competitors, the Daily News and New York Newsday, on life support -- all are losing money.

The day that the Post returned, a subsidiary of Murdoch's Australia-based media conglomerate, News Corp., completed its $25 million acquisition of the Post in bankruptcy court.

Because he bought only assets, Murdoch has no obligation to accept contracts or employees.

Murdoch, who sold the Post in 1985 to real estate investor Peter Kalikow to comply with a Federal Communications Commission rule prohibiting ownership of a newspaper and television station in the same market, bought the troubled tabloid from the court overseeing Kalikow's personal bankruptcy.

The paper has been losing about $15 million a year. Attempts to sell it earlier this year resulted in brief and chaotic stewardships by inexperienced publishers.

Congress relaxed the cross-ownership rule?earlier this year to clear the way for Murdoch, who was viewed as the only hope to save the paper.

The strike collapsed on its fourth day when the Guild failed to dissuade or prevent craft union members from crossing picket lines. The union representing nearly 300 workers in news, advertising and business operations voted to end the strike and return to work.

But it wasn't that easy.

As managers and other union-exempt employees produced the paper, Guild employees lined up Oct. 4 to pick up applications for the jobs that they held until a week earlier. Some employees would apply for jobs that they held for decades.

Defeated union leaders collected the applications from Post executives to save defeated workers from humiliation.

Guild officials said they expected that about 200 members would lose their jobs. Post executives were not saying.

Archbishop John O'Connor of New York, at the request of the Guild, asked Murdoch to be fair in rehiring union members.

In a statement, Post publisher Patrick J. Purcell said nobody would invest 7- in a failing newspaper "without some review of the employees . …

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