Friday, June 12, 2009

Washington Post May Protect Favored Union Workers

By Greg Bensinger

-- Washington Post Co. union members approved a new two-year contract today that will protect 25 percent of newspaper employees from future job cuts without taking their seniority into account.

The Washington-based publisher may identify 25 percent of employees it wants to protect from job cuts without regard to length of tenure, a switch from contracts that stipulated the newest hires must be let go first, according to the union’s Web site.

“It seems that the Washington Post is trying to chip away at seniority rules,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “The newspaper could protect only the lower paid employees, for instance.”

The contract, covering about 960 union reporters and other workers, was approved today, said Joe Kahraman, a Washington- Baltimore Newspaper Guild representative, in an e-mail. An exact vote tally wasn’t immediately available, he said.

Washington Post has been combining sections and cutting jobs at its flagship newspaper amid an advertising sales plunge. The newspaper’s ad revenue declined 33 percent in the first quarter.

Post employees aren’t granted salary increases in the new contract and will receive as much as a $1,000 payment from the publisher this year, according to the site. The contract will also provide for some Washington Post Web site employees to join the Guild for the first time.

“The agreement strikes a fair and responsible balance in this difficult climate for both newspapers and the overall economy,” said Rima Calderon, a Washington Post spokeswoman, in an e-mail. She didn’t provide details on any savings for the company.

Washington Post’s newspaper division, which includes the Herald of Everett, Washington, lost $53.8 million in the first quarter after writing down $13.4 million of the Post’s value. The unit reported an operating profit of $1.2 million last year.

Washington Post fell 40 cents to $344.90 at 4:07 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have lost 12 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Bensinger in New York at

No comments: