- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

A cliffhanger between parent company and its billion-dollar baby has a relatively happy ending after three months of melodrama and posturing.

Late Tuesday, a tentative agreement was reached between the New York Times and the Boston Globe over labor disputes that at one point threatened to shutter the 137-year-old Beantown newspaper.

Though the measure has yet to be ratified, the largest Globe union has agreed to $10 million in wage and benefit cuts imposed by the Times, which bought the money-losing daily for more than $1 billion in 1993.

The Globe is losing about $1 million a week, even as the Times struggles with flagging advertising revenue and job cutbacks of its own.

“This is a constructive step forward in what has been a difficult process for everyone,” said Globe Publisher P. Steven Ainsley. “Of course, the proposed contract still asks for significant sacrifices I wish were not necessary. We appreciate everyone’s desire to make those sacrifices to help secure the Globes future.”

Dan Totten, president of the Boston newspaper Guild that represents about 700 editorial and business employees, said the agreement included a 5.94 percent salary reduction rather than a proposed 23 percent reduction, plus modifications to contract language on job security and other concessions.

Globe reporters make between $40,000 and $70,000, the paper reported, and a final vote of Guild members is scheduled for July 20, Mr. Totten said.

“Although I cant speak for everyone, I think this deal will pass. Everyone wants this over,” said reporter Beth Daley, according to an account in the Globe, which has been quick to air the dirty laundry through frequent coverage.

Less than two weeks ago, the Globe reported that three Boston businessmen - “a Boston Celtics owner, a former advertising mogul and a member of the family that ran the Globe for generations” - were waiting in the wings to bid on the paper.

The Globe did not name sources for the story, but hinted that the potential buyers could delay their offers until the “standoff” between the papers has waned.

The situation has been filled with potshots and countervolleys.

Globe employees initially rejected the cost-cutting demands from their parent company. They took their grievances to the National Labor Relations Board and sent a personal letter to Times Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., asking him for “leadership.” He responded with a terse e-mail of reprimand.

On Tuesday, Times CEO Janet L. Robinson fought off rumors that the much-maligned Gray Lady was so financially strapped that the Sulzberger family was considering selling its property to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim or Hollywood honcho David Geffen.

“No, no no,” the executive said, according to media writer Jon Friedman of Market Watch.

Analysts have repeatedly noted the irony that the traditionally progressive Times was playing the role of union buster, while Globe readers complained about interference from the Times and local politicians.

Crosstown rival Boston Herald, meanwhile, attacked the Globe in recent days, reporting that the cash-strapped Globe dropped $1 million in a splashy print, broadcast and billboard self-promotion campaign.

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