The talks are being led by Bernard Plum, an employment lawyer at Proskauer Rose who represents Times management, and Newspaper Guild of New York President Bill O’Meara.
In a series of videos posted on YouTube this year, the guild detailed the negotiations, which have dragged on since the contract expired in March 2011. Among the sticking points:
- Guaranteed pension or no? The guild wants to preserve the company’s pension plan, which guarantees retired employees a monthly pension payment for life. At the first meeting yesterday, Mr. Plum, who has previously said “the pension has to go,” repeated his opposition to any pension plan that included new hires.
- One contract or two? The guild seeks a unified contract that would apply to employees of the print and digital units, while management seeks separate contracts. At the meeting yesterday, guild lawyer Irwin Bluestein repeated the guild’s opposition to separate contracts, to which Mr. Plum replied, “You do that at your peril. The clock is ticking.”
- Significant pay raises or no? The company is offering a 1 percent wage increase over a three-year period, according to the guild, which finds the offer de minimus. While Times journalists are paid top rates on average for the newspaper industry, cash-rich digital competitors like The Huffington Post and Bloomberg News now routinely hire away Times talent.
- How to calculate bonuses? The company has offered a profit-sharing plan for union employees in which bonuses would max out at 2 percent of salary, while the guild seeks bonuses that could reach 20 percent of salary.
|N.Y. Times CEO, Arthur Sulzberger Jr.|
But as of the end of 2011, the company owed about $522 million to its pension funds, and the conventional wisdom among industry analysts is that traditional newspapers need to restructure their retirement benefits, replacing pensions with 401Ks.
The Times has enough money this year to continue paying its pension liabilities, analysts say. But if Mr. Sulzberger allows the pension plan to survive, it could hurt the company in other ways.
“If Arthur rolls over and gives in to the union,” said Mr. Atorino, “the stock’s going down.”
Mr. O’Meara and Mr. Plum did not respond to requests for comment. A Times spokesperson said that the company seeks a fair and equitable solution to the contract dispute.