By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Another potential big day for the Globe

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.

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  1. InsiderNegot

    Both sides would be very wise to reach an agreement today. The Globe needs to get this off their radar screen. The Guild, however, does not have a mandate. It is pretty clear at this point that anything brought back to the Guild members now will pass and the Globe knows it. The Globe will also have a difficult time explaining to the other unions who have agreed, if they stray too far or do not keep the 23% cut in place until a vote. This may force the Guild to hold another ratification without the 30 day nonesense. It is my sense that Lunzer is here to reign in Mr. Totten.

  2. Tim Allik

    WBUR's Bob Oakes did a good interview this morning with Portland Newspaper Guild President Tom Bell."Meanwhile, as the Times tries to sell the Globe, the Boston Newspaper Guild may take a cue from how a guild at the Portland Press Herald in Maine handled the sale of their paper. The union spearheaded the effort to find a buyer and actually becomes a part owner in the Press Herald on Monday. We spoke to Portland Newspaper Guild President Tom Bell about his advice for his Globe counterparts."

  3. Treg

    Coming apart at the seams or not – management needs to give up more. The burden being placed on the Guild is unjust (and yes, unfair).Want to make the Globe attractive to potential buyers? Trim some of that fat in managemnent and stop busting the Guild.

  4. The Arranger

    It seems the Times has decided to go without copy editing. Worchester?Bob in Peabody

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