Plain Dealer management met with representatives from its three unions this week, requesting that they trim $5 million in payroll expenses by June 1 or face more layoffs.

The proposed concessions would affect members of the Newspaper Guild, which represents editorial employees; the Teamsters, which represent circulation workers and others; and the pressmen's union, which represents workers at the Tiedeman Road printing plant.

The PD’s vice president and director of labor relations and human resources cited a $38 million decline in advertising revenue, which exceeded projections.

The proposed cuts, management said, are roughly equivalent to recent concessions by non-union employees such as editors; 450 non-union workers recently gave up around 8-10 percent of their salary, and most accepted 10-day unpaid furloughs. The union concessions would affect over half of the PD’s 1000-some employees

The PD, pressmen, and teamsters didn’t return Scene’s calls. Editorial Guild Union Chair Harlan Spector says that while the proposed cuts are technically comparable, they’re a bigger piece from a smaller pie.

“The big difference is, non-union people, their benefits have been stable and well-funded,” says Spector. “We’ve been giving up for five years. We’ve given up [provisions] in pension and health care — we’ve lost ground, and we’re paying more for it. Also, our pay has not kept up with the cost of living. Plus, we’ve had layoffs. We’ve lost almost half of our members [since 2001].”

The Guild has presented membership with the news, though management had no firm details or proposals. The Guild and PD management have also reached an impasse with two grievances filed by the union last month. The matter will now move to arbitration, once both parties agree on an independent arbitrator. — D.X. Ferris

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