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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

The Blade's new reality

IT WAS an agonizing nine months for all involved, but the long and contentious dispute between The Blade and its unions is finally over, and our managers and returning employees can once again pool their talents in the joint enterprise they love: producing the best daily newspaper they can.

Our new labor contracts reflect that our business is much different from the one many of us knew years ago, and we are grateful that our employee organizations came to accept the unavoidable.

All of us were frustrated by the dictates of that new reality, and saddened that lockouts and layoffs of associates were required. Our employees had to swallow hard and accept pay cuts, a slightly longer work week, and a commission-based pay schedule for our advertising sales people.

Painful as the changes are, they are all essential steps if the newspaper is to return to profitability. When that day comes, the contracts provide that the employees share in those gains.

In a sense the newspaper s economic downturns of the last few years grew, at least in part, from the generous contracts of the past. There was a time, specifically in the mid-1960s when The Blade experienced its only prolonged strike that pay and benefits were on the low side. That changed over the years, to the point that a job at The Blade has become much coveted in this community and in the profession.

That should still be so if the changes in these new agreements produce the desired effects.

A special word of praise is in order for Dennis Duffy, now retired business manager of Local 8 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, whose union settled on a new contract with The Blade last July. Mr. Duffy recognized early that the newspaper industry has changed and that the old way of doing business could not endure much longer. He showed genuine leadership and statesmanship, and he deserves to be commended for it.

The point has been made that publishing a newspaper the size of The Blade is the equivalent of producing a long, non-fiction novel every 24 hours. That daunting and exciting task continues.

But a whole new set of challenges faces our industry. Distressed as we were by the events of the past nine months, we are gratified that we are finally in a position to embrace and overcome those challenges far into the future.

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