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A tale of two Globes and their attack on employees on both sides of the border

Dear Media Employees Everywhere (especially those at the Globe and Mail … our thoughts are with you this crucial weekend):

Don’t be bullied – and that’s what’s happening to you as I write this. Unionized workers at Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, are just the latest in this industry to be intimidated beyond belief into deeply concessionary discussions.

Like media employers everywhere, Globe management (CTVglobemedia Inc.) is using the economic and media crises to claim they “need” a huge list of concessions, whether or not those concessions relate to the problem at hand. In the forced “final offer” delivered today to unionized employees after talks broke down, management says it intends to move to a two-tiered pension system: current employees have a choice between the good pension they’re in (defined benefit) or move to a defined contribution (RRSP-like) plan. New hires would have no choice: they get stuck with the DC plan. There are cuts to salary scales for new employees and a freeze on pay for two years.

My advice: don’t buy it. Say no to the management offer. This kind of systematic pillorying of media employees will do nothing to save our industry. It’s eroding what content still exists and will likely drive the best and brightest away. It’s also selling out our next generation of employees (possibly your own kids, siblings, cousins) if yet another defined benefit pension is bargained away. Don’t make long-term/permanent concessions in a climate of day-to-day uncertainty. The climate will change, one way or the other, and you won’t be able to get back what you’ve lost.

Our Guild colleagues at the Boston Globe said no. The owners (New York Times Co.) threatened to *shut the newspaper down* if employees didn’t accept deep, deep concessions – to the tune of $20M. The Guild was the only Boston Globe unions to defy the threat when members narrowly rejected the first deal put to them, which would have cut salaries by 8.3%

Did the world end or the paper close? No.

The threat to close the paper was withdrawn. But in true bully style, the Boston Globe then imposed a 23% wage cut, yet another tactic to wear the employees down. Union and management went back to the table, and management announced the Globe is up for sale. Read the letter sent by Dan Totten, the Guild’s president, upon that news. Since then, another deal has been reached. The good news is that it’s slightly better: wage cuts of only 5.94%. But overall concessions are still in the $10M range.

What a brutal way to position the paper for the market, instead of working together on the changing media environment in a civilized way. As Totten said in another letter, “sharing the pain is not the New York Times way”.

The Boston Globe case is not a good-news story. But it is a demonstration that people can say no, and they should…sometimes over and over again. The future of this industry is at stake.

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