Star Tribune workers approve contract extension

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Members of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild’s Star Tribune unit have voted to approve an 18-month contract extension, continuing a pay freeze. The Aug. 4 vote for the contract extension was “overwhelming,” said David Chanen, a news reporter and co-chair of the Guild’s Star Tribune unit. “There were very few ‘no’ votes.”

“Management’s initial proposal was totally unacceptable,” Chanen said. “It would have totally gouged all the major tenets of our contract.” Management sought a two-tiered wage structure paying suburban reporters less, pay raises based on subjective job performance criteria, removing seniority protections from the contract, and allowing managers to perform more editing functions.

Management’s final proposal was a three-year contract with a wage freeze the first two years and a three percent wage increase the third year, minus some of the original objectionable demands, Chanen said. “We thought we’d ask if an extension was on the table and they said it was.”

After 11 meetings with management, Guild negotiators voted unanimously to recommend to the membership an extension of the current contract for 18 months.

The Guild’s contract negotiations were the first labor negotiations since the Star Tribune exited a period of bankruptcy from January to September 2009.

The Guild’s Star Tribune contract covers 260 workers in the newsroom — reporters, photographers, editors and others — as well as a handful of workers in the promotion and circulation departments.

“By the time we’re done with this contract, that will be 4-1/2 years with a pay freeze,” Chanen said.

The contract now expires in January 2013.

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