by Frank Lewis
In April, Plain Dealer management requested its three labor unions to trim a total of $5 million in payroll or face layoffs. The editorial union and two of five Teamster units voted to accept the concessions. On Monday, a PD source says, the paper cut positions and shifts from units whose members rejected the voluntary cuts.
Without concessions, newspaper management projected 60 or more job cuts: 22 from the news room, 20 mailroom positions, as many as 16 from Teamster circulation drivers and others. Now, according to a report, 13 drivers have been laid off, and a substantial amount of paper-handler shifts (those are the people who place inserts in papers) have been cut and outsourced.
Teamsters and PD Labor Relations did not return Scene’s calls. The Pressmen Union had no comment.
The employees who accepted concessions are getting more time off and receiving less money to perform the same duties.
Members of the Newspaper Guild, the editorial union, voted to accept a contract amendment that amounts to a 12 percent wage cut. All 186 Guild members took an 8.1 percent wage reduction and 11-day unpaid furloughs. Membership proposed achieving the budget cuts through furloughs, but the PD rejected that offer.
“I don’t want to minimize taking a big pay cut, but it beats the alternative,” says PD Editor Susan Goldberg. “We’re relieved to get this behind us. I’m happy not to have any layoffs. We can move forward with the business of gathering news for greater Cleveland.”
Similar cuts/furloughs are common across the industry, with an average around 10 percent. Scene, which merged with Free Times last summer, not long before the economy really tanked, has imposed furlough days.
In March, 450 non-union PD workers gave up around 8-10 percent of their salary, and most accepted 10-day unpaid furloughs. In December, the paper laid off 23 union newsroom employees, and 27 took voluntary layoffs with additional financial compensation.
“Our folks voted to save jobs,” says Guild chair Harlan Spector. “We recommended it, and I think it was a wise move to accept it. The pay cuts hurt, obviously. Given what’s going on in our industry, a one-year job guarantee is good.” — D.X Ferris