Philly Guild, owners find room to negotiate

The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia and Interstate General Media “agreed to begin early bargaining on a new contract,” Guild Executive Director Bill Ross and Acting President Howard Gensler tell members in an email. The agreement came during “a productive meeting” Thursday morning.

IGM owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com. Its owners had demanded $8 million in concessions from the union or would begin liquidating the company, the Guild said last Friday. Guild President Dan Gross resigned Wednesday after he said he was taking a buyout from the Daily News.

If the parties can’t come to an agreement or if the Guild’s members don’t approve an agreement, the Guild says, “our existing contract stays in effect until it expires in October.”

Daniel Denvir published an account of the news organizations’ struggles‘ in Philadelphia City Paper Thursday, looking at “questionable editorial choices” and some newsroom sniping about Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow.

Former Sun columnist Mike Littwin, according to sources, infuriated Marimow by writing a union memo critical of management. Littwin came to Marimow’s office and told him, “Bill, it isn’t personal.” Marimow opened a copy of The Godfather and pointed out the passage where Michael Corleone says, “Don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal.” Littwin was transferred soon thereafter; he filed a grievance and won a settlement, sources say.

Here’s the Guild memo:

Guild members,

After a productive meeting this morning, in which the company spoke to the status of other union negotiations and the dire financial situation it still faces, the Guild Executive Board agreed to begin early bargaining on a new contract. The first session will be tomorrow afternoon.

This decision was not made lightly and came with the following caveats:

1) The Guild’s present contract remains in effect until a new agreement can be reached and ratified. If a new agreement cannot be reached or ratified, our existing contract stays in effect until it expires in October.

2) The period for members to consider buyouts or reduced work weeks has been extended through next Friday, Jan. 25. Your last day of work would be Feb. 1.

To accommodate more members, the Guild’s general meeting will take place Tues., Jan. 22, at 6:30 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at 11th and Arch streets. For members who can’t wait around, Bill Ross and members of the executive board will be at the Hilton starting at 5 pm to answer questions and take nominations for Guild officers.

Previously: Guild head resigns as Philly news orgs face growing turmoil | Guild: Owners say they may liquidate or sell Philly papers this month | Philadelphia newspapers lose $16 million, seek $28 million in cuts | New owners tell Poynter: “We’re not cutters, we’re people who want to grow.”

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