Negotiations continue as strike talk heats up at Inquirer, Daily News, Philly.com

 (NewsWorks file photo)

(NewsWorks file photo)

Journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com could vote to strike next week if contract negotiations with the company are not settled before Sunday night when their current deal expires.

Negotiators for both sides will meet through Saturday in hopes of breaking the stalemate. 

In a memo to members Wednesday, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia’s executive director Bill Ross summed up the union’s grievances: “No raises, higher health care costs for worse coverage and weakened seniority.”

“If we can’t reach an agreement, please check your email over the weekend regarding what to do Monday should the contract expire Sunday night, and be prepared for a strike authorization vote on Wednesday or Thursday of next week,” Ross instructed his members. 

Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Media Network, which owns all three news outlets, declined to comment on the status of the negotiations.

“Our negotiating team is continuing to work with the mediator and guild to try to find solutions to the remaining issues,” she said.

Buckman said newsroom managers, who are not union members, have also “taken pay cuts and furloughs and seen staff reductions.”

PMN was expected to introduce a new health plan Thursday, which Ross’ memo implies the union was already planning to reject. 

In addition to concerns about higher out-of-pocket health care costs, the union claims PMN wants to minimize the role of seniority in future layoffs and is refusing to bring employees for Philly.com and the two print outlets under the same contract.

The last time Philadelphia’s newspapers went on strike was in the fall of 1985. The strike lasted 45 days and involved nine different unions. The Inquirer and Daily News both temporarily stopped publishing print editions.

If journalists were to strike this time, a source close to past newsroom management says the company would likely devote resources to keeping up appearances online at Philly.com, as was the plan when the union came close to striking in 2006 and 2010.

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