Magazine article Editor & Publisher

No Providence in Rhode Island

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

No Providence in Rhode Island

Article excerpt

RELATIONS TAKE TURN FOR WORSE

A Newspaper Guild contract dispute at the Providence (R.I.) Journal has turned bitter in recent weeks with protests ranging from three days of byline strikes to a cartoonist's unflattering depiction of the publisher that drew punishments for three staff members.

On top of that, the paper is facing an arbitrator's hearing for allegedly failing to honor an equal wage clause and a federal labor relations complaint that accuses management of making illegal workplace changes.

"The Journal wants to coerce the union into agreeing to an inferior contract," said Tim Schick, administrator for Guild Local 31041, which represents about 500 Journal employees. "They want no union or one that has waived all of its rights to bargaining."

Rick Perras, the Journal's chief negotiator, blamed the stalled talks on the Guild, which he says would rather "litigate than negotiate."

The recent accusations and protests began shortly after the last contract between the Guild and the paper expired Jan. 31, Schick said. Within days, the union membership rejected an offer that would have provided them with a 9% raise over three years, pension improvements, and increases in travel/accident, disability, and life insurance. Negotiations have been on hold since Jan. 24.

Schick said the union's opposition to the contract had less to do with wages or insurance and more to do with other elements, such as an increase in health insurance rates, a reduction in the number of paid holidays, and a vacation accrual policy change.

Perras said last week that the Guild could have gotten a better contract three years ago, but rejected a management offer for improved pension benefits at the time. "Things have changed since 1997, not the least being an explosion in health insurance costs," he said.

Mark Ryan, the Journal's legal and administration vice president, declined to comment on the negotiations, but issued a statement defending the paper's recent actions. "The employees covered by The Newspaper Guild are talented and valued employees," the statement said. "The company is hopeful an agreement can be reached."

The Guild recently filed separate complaints with a local arbitrator and the National Labor Relations Board. …

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