New MaineToday Investors Demand Concessions
Less than a month after the Portland Newspaper Guild reached agreement on a new contract with MaineToday Media – publisher of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel – the future of that deal is in question. The new investors seeking to buy a majority of the company, known as the 2100 Trust LLC, last week demanded fifty changes to the contract, most requiring significant concessions from the guild, the largest union at MaineToday.
According to a memo the union sent to members of Jan. 17, a copy of which was obtained from an employee, here are some of the givebacks the potential new owners are demanding:
The workweek would increase from 37.5 hours to forty hours with no additional pay.
Employees would pay thirty percent of health insurance, instead of twenty percent. They’d also pay half the cost of life insurance, which had previously been completely covered by management. Dental insurance costs would rise by $200 per year.
Extra pay for being on call, for working nights, and for filling in for a manager would be eliminated. There’d be no minimum pay for being called in during off hours. Advertising salespeople would see a reduction in their base salaries, and new hires would be paid commission only.
The company would have the right for unlimited outsourcing with no layoff protection. Jobs could be moved to new locations without union consent. In some cases, newly hired employees could be replaced by non-union workers. New positions in the company would not be filled by guild members and could be replaced by correspondents or other part-timers. Pay and benefits for these part-timers would not be covered by the union contract, but would be at management’s discretion. There would no longer be a minimum of five full-time photographers, with the company able to use freelancers without limits. The editorial writer (Greg Kesich) and columnist (Bill Nemitz) would no longer be union members.
The guild would lose its seats on the MaineToday board of directors. It would also give up the right to arbitration in disciplinary firings.
The 2100 Trust is offering a few new benefits. They include sabbaticals for “senior journalists,” defined as those with at least six years with the company. They could take three months leave at seventy-five percent of their regular pay. MaineToday would also pay for eighty percent of approved classes in a continuing education program, up to $1,000.
Meetings of union members have been scheduled to discuss the changes on Jan. 18 at the Portland office and the South Portland printing facility. A guild official did not respond to a request for comment on the investors’ demands, nor has the union said what the timetable is for its response, although a member of 2100 Trust had previously said the group hoped to close on their purchase by mid-February.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.