Monday, June 1, 2009

MediaNews Journalists Vote on New Contracts

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Journalists at the San Jose Mercury News will vote this afternoon on a new union contract agreement, while those at its MediaNews sister papers, including the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times, will vote tomorrow. The Trib and CC Times agreement, tentatively approved by the company and union bargaining team members last Thursday, will be the first contract since the papers merged in 2007. Prior to that, the Trib had a union contract, but the Times was non-union. The agreement sets a minimum pay for full-time reporters at $39,000 a year - a significant improvement over the old Trib contract. Other improvements include better severance pay during layoffs.

The Mercury News proposal, however, involves significant givebacks in exchange for no layoffs. If approved, all union-represented journalists will see their pay cut by 7 percent immediately, and then will suffer another 2 percent cut on January 1. Merc journalists, however, will still be better paid, on average, than their counterparts at the Trib and the CC Times. Other givebacks include a loss of up to one week of vacation and unspecified increase in worker healthcare benefit costs. The company also has the right to put workers on five days of unpaid furlough.

And finally, the Merc contract would allow the company to consolidate Merc copy editors with those from the Trib and the Contra Costa Times and move them to MediaNews' combined copy editing facility in Walnut Creek. The consolidation could result in layoffs and further pay cuts for Merc copy editors. Both contracts are 18 months in duration and will expire in November 2010.

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