Philly Newspaper Guild avoids strike with a new contract to vote on

The union representing Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers will not be going on strike.

The Newspaper Guild reached a tentative agreement with the Philadelphia Media Network on Friday, a day before the Guild’s contract expired.

During the bargaining session, attorneys from both sides duked it out over contract terms with a federal mediator for some 11 hours. It was intense, Bill Ross with the Guild said, but both sides walked out satisfied.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding on paycuts and givebacks,” Ross said. “We made it clear from the get-go that there would be no economic givebacks. And our members stood up and fought back. That’s what this was all about.”

The main victories for the Guild, according to Ross, include not increasing employees’ contribution to health care costs, and not scrapping the “last hired, first fired” policy —  seen as a clear win for employees who’ve logged many years at the company.

The Guild votes next week, July 7 and 8, on the new two-year contract. Until then, the company is not commenting on the terms, according to Philadelphia Media Network spokeswoman Amy Buckman.

Ross said there will not be furloughs, forced unpaid leave, in the next contract.

If approved, the company will be offering a new buyout program to employees who’ve been at one of the papers for 25 years or more.

In the event of layoffs, the company can protect a fourth of the employees in a group targeted for layoffs, if deemed essential to the company.

Layoff decisions can still be disputed through the arbitration and grievance process, Ross said, especially if the decision is perceived as “capricious.”

Employees of Philly.com, who are under a separate contract, also reached a tenative agreement on Friday, the main terms of which mirror the agreement covering the print employees.

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