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Published: Thursday, 5/12/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Blade, union labor talks stalled over cuts

Guild says firm plans outsourcing, layoffs

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Labor negotiations between The Blade and the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions fell apart this week.

A notice from the Toledo Newspaper Guild said The Blade is seeking $8.8 million in cuts, while the union council -- which includes eight bargaining units at the newspaper -- has proposed $7.2 million in concessions. Talks between the two sides fell apart Monday, the letter said, after the sides could not agree on a proposed 15 percent pay cut and increased health-insurance premium costs for employees.

The Guild says The Blade seeks to begin outsourcing production of the newspaper as a result of the stalled talks. It also said the company plans to post federally required notices of layoffs for production-related positions.

The notices are needed to provide 60 days' warning of possible mass layoffs.

Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, would not discuss the status of contract negotiations Wednesday. However, he countered comments made by Guild spokesman Lillian Covarrubias in a published report Wednesday.

"What she said happened was taken out of context, her comments were inaccurate, and most of them were, quite frankly, patently false," Mr. Zerbey said.

Steve Spolar, vice president of human resources and labor relations for Block newspapers, would not discuss details of the contract talks Wednesday, including whether the points laid out in the union's letter are accurate.

The contract talks affect more than 330 workers, including newsroom employees, paperhandlers, pressmen, engravers, mailers, delivery drivers, and people who insert items into the paper. Contracts for the various bargaining units expired on Feb. 28.

Woody Trabbic, president of the Council of Newspaper Unions, said it's unclear what next steps will be taken by The Blade and the bargaining units. No meeting date had been set as of Wednesday night.

"We're hoping to get back to the table and get it resolved," he said. "That's the unions' hope, and we hope that's the company's hope."

The Blade is owned by Block Communications Inc., which also owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Buckeye CableSystem.



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