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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
More layoffs at Duluth News Tribune
The Newspaper Guild representing newsroom, circulation and advertising employees at the Duluth News Tribune, said it expected another round of layoffs beginning Friday, Feb. 12.
Guild president Peter Passi said owner Forum Communications said it planned to layoff “a few more employees” in the latest round of cutbacks that has eliminated about one-third of the daily’s work force over the last two years. Passi said education reporter Sarah Horner was among the casualties. Ironically, she authored a bylined page one story in the Friday edition in the prime upper right position above the fold.
Guild reporters were expected to participate in a one-day byline strike — permitted in their union contract — in the Saturday, Feb. 13 edition.
Passi said the company refused the union’s offer of 2010 contract concessions in return for an assurance of no additional layoffs. Passi placed the value of those concessions at $77,000 during the year. In addition, the union was prepared to accept a one-day unpaid furlough during the year by all members, he said.
News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall didn’t respond Friday morning to an interview request.
On Feb. 4, members of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild, the largest employee union at the Duluth News Tribune, voted 98 percent in favor of negotiating wage and benefit reductions with the newspaper’s Fargo, ND-based owner. The company-proposed cuts included a 1.5 percent wage reduction and the elimination of a 2 percent 401(k) match. Guild members were ready to make these sacrifices and go even further as necessary to prevent additional layoffs, Passi said. When the company’s no-promises proposal was put in front of Guild membership, 78 percent of those voting rejected the measure, he said.
“The company appears fixated on punishing Guild members for turning down its demands for unilateral cuts in pay and benefits with no guarantee that Duluth jobs would be protected,” he said.
“Workers at the News Tribune stand ready and willing to accept pay and benefit cuts to help the company succeed -- but only if it will save jobs in Duluth and preserve the quality of our paper for our customers and our community,’’ Passi said. “We can’t afford to keep losing jobs at the News Tribune. Yet the company seems eager to eliminate more jobs and damage its own product, even when we present it with logical and less destructive cost-saving alternatives.’’
While media companies have faced tough times of late, many of the cuts at the News Tribune in the past year could have been avoided if Forum would work with the Guild to find alternative solutions that would keep the company profitable, according to the union.
Forum has never claimed an operating loss, according to the union. So the situation in Duluth differs from those of newspapers in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Chicago that have sought bankruptcy protection, Passi said.
“Forum’s cavalier attitude toward eliminating staff and shrinking the product shows a reckless disregard for the long-term viability of the News Tribune,’’ Passi said. “Duluth deserves better.’’
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