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Published: Wednesday, 5/18/2011

Unions march during rally over stalled talks at Blade

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

More than 50 members of the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions and of other unions marched outside The Blade's offices in downtown Toledo Tuesday.

The rally, at 541 North Superior St., was organized after contract negotiations fell apart last week between the company and the union council, which represents eight bargaining units at the newspaper.

The Toledo Newspaper Guild, one of the council members, said last week that The Blade is seeking $8.8 million in cuts, and the union council has proposed $7.2 million in concessions.

Talks between the two sides collapsed, the Guild said, after they could not agree on a proposed 15 percent pay cut and increased health-insurance premium costs for employees.

A notice from the union council this week said The Blade plans to outsource production and distribution work, classified advertising artists, and advertising services in light of stalled negotiations.

The move would result in 190 job losses at the newspaper, the council said.

Woody Trabbic, president of the Council of Newspaper Unions, said each of the bargaining units has passed strike authorization measures since the talks broke down. No meeting has been scheduled to resume negotiations between The Blade and the unions, he said.

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

Steve Spolar, vice president of human resources and labor relations for Block newspapers and the lead company negotiator, and Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade, declined Tuesday to discuss the status of contract talks.

The negotiations affect more than 330 workers, including newsroom employees, paper handlers, pressmen, engravers, delivery drivers, and people who insert items into the paper. Contracts for the various bargaining units expired on Feb. 28 but union members continue to report to work.



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