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Newspaper and Guild End Negotiations

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Last week, the Flyer reported that the Newspaper Guild of Memphis was launching a "Save Our CA" advertising campaign, created to inform Commercial Appeal readers about the Memphis Publishing Company's intention to outsource more positions. Now guild members must decide whether to accept the newspaper's final offer or consider the possibility of going to "war" with their employer.

On May 8th, after seven contentious years of negotiation, guild members will vote for or against a contract that permits unlimited outsourcing of all positions at The Commercial Appeal. The CA has always had the right to outsource any position, but under terms of the old contract, management couldn't fire an employee in order to outsource his or her job.

The proposed contract gives employees making top-scale immediate raises, the first pay increases in more than six years. If the contract is approved, employees will receive a 4 percent raise in 2010, a 3 percent raise in the following year, and a 2 percent raise in the third year. The new contract would freeze pensions, although employees would keep all benefits accrued to date.

If the new contract is rejected, CA management will declare an impasse and implement the contract anyway, according to guild president Daniel Connolly. He says it would mean the union would be "at war," adding "all options would be on the table, including boycotts and other methods to inflict economic damage."

CA management announced its "final offer" weeks ago, but the guild successfully lobbied for another round of negotiations, which took place April 26th. Unlimited outsourcing was termed non-negotiable, but CA management agreed to pay employees who lose their jobs to outsourcing two weeks salary in "true severance," in addition to the normal severancwe pay, which is deducted from an employee's accrued pension. The union gets to keep a clause in its contract that ensures the terms of agreement won't expire until a new contract is ratified.

In a message to guild members, Connolly said: "We recognize that the newspaper industry is troubled and, at various times, we proposed economic concessions to save jobs, such as furloughs and temporary wage cuts. The company rejected these ideas. ... Going forward, we would encourage the company to see its workers as assets who can help save the business, rather than as obstacles to progress."

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