The New York Times Co. dropped the nuclear option on New England journalism late last week, threatening to shut down the Boston Globe unless unions agree to nearly $20 million in concessions within a month.
And while indications are that Globe unions will agree to some of the demands to save the paper, there has been little talk about what the future of the Globe could mean for Telegram & Gazette employees or the future of the Telegram. The paper has already faced heavy layoffs and cutbacks over the past few years. And recently, some Telegram managers have received a 2.5% pay cut (compared to a similar 5% cut at the Globe), but there is no word yet on if Telegram employees are being asked to make the same concessions – namely pay cuts, elimination of lifetime guarantees given to some union employees, and an end to NYT Co. pension contributions.
Part of the delicateness of the issue is that the Telegram, by all accounts, isn’t in nearly the same awful fiscal shape as the Globe. According to published reports, the revenues for the New England Media Group (which consists of the Globe, Telegram, and Boston.com), fell from $700 million in 2004 to $524 million in 2008. And while the vast majority of those revenues came from the Globe, a vast amount of the operating deficit is due to that paper as well.
But, the Telegram is also at a disadvantage as a drastically smaller (and more low-profile) operation than Boston; there are no guarantees that the Times Co. would want to keep a stake in the New England media market without the flagship Globe product to lean on.
UPDATE: The Boston Business Journal reports that the Telegram is avoiding major ultimatums, at least for now.
“We’ve been told the Worcester paper is doing better. We’ve seen a different pattern, regarding wages, than what’s happening over at the Globe,” said Tim Schick, a Providence Newspaper Guild official who negotiated employment contracts on behalf of the T&G’s editorial and circulation union members with the paper’s management.
Schick said T&G managers have not relayed anything “remotely close” to the ultimatum passed on April 2 to the Globe’s managers and unions. He said the two sides are scheduled to meet and discuss contract bargaining issues later in the week.
“They (T&G managers) have never pled poverty. They’ve distinguished themselves from the Globe,” Schick said.