Talks between Blade, unions stallWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Progress on labor negotiations between The Blade and its unions stalled May 9.
Toledo Newspaper Guild Administrative Officer Lillian Covarrubias confirmed that The Blade intends to post a WARN Act notice, which could culminate in the outsourcing of the production of the paper. WARN is designed to protect workers by requiring employers to provide 60-day notices of either closings or “mass layoffs.”
The Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions offered $7.2 million in concessions but Blade negotiators demanded at least $8.8 million, Covarrubias said. The Blade has also insisted on a 15 percent wage reduction and for employees to pay 33 percent of insurance premium costs.
In a letter to guild members on May 10, Covarrubias questioned The Blade’s spending habits and their effect on current and future employees.
“The savings that the Unions proposed was not enough says the company,” Covarrubias wrote. “But the company does have money to send an entourage of advertising mgt., their spouses and advertising clients to Napa Valley, rent a flat in London for the Royal Wedding, sponsor the Toledo Symphony at Carnegie event, and last year’s 175th anniversary bash. I’d be the first one to say that the company should be allowed to spend its profit how they wish. But according to the company they did not make a profit in 2010 and are on track to lose untold millions this year. So how do they justify their lavish spending habits?! And unless those habits and the way they manage the company changes — all of our past and future givebacks won’t make them profitable.”
Covarrubias said The Blade has now set into motion its “Plan B” proposals to the unions, which it has “threatened to enact since the start of negotiations.” Covarrubias described The Blade’s stance on the negotiations as “beyond unreasonable” and wrote that they gave the union two choices: “Take ‘Plan A,’ or suffer the consequences of ‘Plan B.’”
“The company is being unfair and not negotiating in good faith,” Covarrubias wrote. “Its refusal to move off of such issues as wage cuts and employee insurance premium costs makes it appear to the Council that the company never was interested in getting a deal other than its own.
“We are left with the distinct feeling that we never have heard the full story about why the Blade is taking such a hard line and insisting on cutting employees to the bone.”
A message seeking comment was left for Blade President and General Manager Joseph Zerbey on May 11. In a May 12 Blade report, Zerbey was quoted as saying of Covarrubias’ comments, “What she said happened was taken out of context, her comments were inaccurate, and most of them were, quite frankly, patently false.”
In 2006, The Blade locked out about 200 workers for nearly nine months. The Blade reported on Dec. 23, 2006 that, “The National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Cleveland said yesterday it has concluded that The Blade’s lockout of more than 200 unionized workers is illegal.”
Covarrubias said the unions will meet on May 11-12 to discuss their next step and make a public statement afterwards.