Depending on how things go, this could be a very big day for the future of the Boston Globe and its employees. The Newspaper Guild is sending in its national president, Bernie Lunzer, to try to work out an alternative deal with New York Times Co. management. (Boston Herald coverage here; Globe coverage here.)
It’s easy to say the Times Co. is going to stick with the 23 percent pay cut it imposed last week, but there are reasons to think that management would be amenable to negotiations. Management’s chief aim is to extract $10 million in concessions from the Guild, and to do it in a manner that paves the way for selling the paper.
The 23 percent pay cut accomplishes the first goal but not the second, since the Times Co. is now dealing with building full of seething employees. And about 190 Guild members still have lifetime employment guarantees, which will make it more difficult for a new owner to do the sort of drastic restructuring that’s needed.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the two sides reach an agreement that looks quite a bit like the one that was narrowly rejected last week: a pay cut of around 10 percent; cuts to retirement and other benefits; and an end to the lifetime job guarantees. If Times Co. executives have any sense at all — a debatable proposition at this point — then they will sweeten the pot a little bit so that Guild members can feel that they actually got something out of last week’s “no” vote. As long as it adds up to $10 million, then it really doesn’t matter.
New York Times columnist David Carr today, meanwhile, checks in with a group of outside analysts to try to put a price tag on the Globe. It proves to be a futile exercise, as the prices range anywhere from $250 million to the Times Co.’s actually having to pay a new owner as much as $25 million to make the Globe go away. Nor does the longer online version add much.
The takeaway quote comes from the venerable analyst John Morton, who writes to Carr:
Should a private buyer be found I suspect that any Globe employees still employed after the deal goes through will recall the contract they have just rejected as paradise compared with what a new owner will impose in cost-cutting.
Times Co. executives have behaved badly enough through this crisis that it’s easy to forget the larger truth: the newspaper business is coming apart at the seams, and what’s happening at the Globe is no different from what’s happening to major metropolitan dailies across the country. Morton’s assessment is a reminder of that reality.