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Did You Know?

Guild ratifies contract at NH Union Leader

Members of the Manchester Newspaper Guild grudgingly but overwhelmingly ratified a new, two-year collective bargaining agreement with the Union Leader Corp. Wednesday after the company dropped demands for sizable pay and benefit cuts.

The vote ended five months of turmoil over an initial proposal that sought a double-digit pay cut, drastic reductions in sick time, limitless use of part-time workers and the ability to use such employees to replace full-time staff, and the elimination of unpaid union leave and other concessions.

The agreement does contain some concessions, including a general wage reduction of  less than 1 percent for full-time workers. It increases the work week over two years and it caps sick leave at 30 days per year.

“This most definitely is not a good deal, but is the best we could do in these difficult economic times, especially in our turbulent industry,” said Norm Welsh, president of the Guild local. 

Welsh expressed gratitude to other organizations that assisted the Guild in efforts to contest the company's initial proposal.  They include the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, the United Auto Workers and Occupy New Hampshire.

“Many of our members held signs, passed out leaflets, signed petitions and withheld names from their work.  They were joined by committed members of other unions and organizations.  Together, our efforts   played a significant role in getting the company to move from its initial position,” Welsh said.

Welsh and the membership decried the attitude and tactics of management during bargaining.  Management threatened to lay off members if its initial deal was not accepted, and it did so at the end of October, when the local rejected that deal.  It refused to discuss cost-cutting in other areas of the company, and it would not consider topics such as improved protections for part-time employees and  members who might be laid off in the future or bringing copy editors at the weekly newspapers into the Guild. It also had presented the Guild with a “Final Offer” on Dec. 21 that included almost all of the retrogressions contained in its initial proposal.