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Published: Friday, 7/22/2011

Blade, unions reach tentative agreement

Ratification votes expected next week


Eight labor unions that represent employees at The Blade have reached a tentative labor contract with the company, representatives from both sides said Thursday.

Bargaining units in the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, which include more than 330 workers, are expected to vote next week on whether to ratify the agreement, said Steve Spolar, vice president of human relations and labor relations for Block Newspapers, which includes The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I am happy that we have reached a tentative agreement with the eight unions of the Toledo Blade, and we look forward to working with the unions to create a good future for the [newspaper]," said Allan Block, chairman of Block Communications Inc., the parent company of The Blade. Block Communications also owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Buckeye CableSystem.

Neither Mr. Spolar, Mr. Block, nor union council President Woody Trabbic disclosed terms of the proposed contract, including the length of the agreement.

However, the Toledo Newspaper Guild, one of the eight unions, Thursday issued a notice to members which said the tentative agreement calls for 3 percent wage cuts in each of the next three years, reductions in paid time off, loss of a night-shift pay differential, and increased employee contributions toward health-care premiums.

The newspaper had been seeking $8.8 million in cuts, including outsourcing of some work, the Toledo Newspaper Guild had said previously.

It was unclear how much in savings the agreement would provide to the company.

Mr. Trabbic, in a statement, said, "While the Joint Council will recommend ratification, we do so with the acknowledgement that we are asking members to give up decades of job improvements in order to save the newspaper."

The last contract expired Feb. 28, but has been extended and the employees have continued to work.

The contract talks affect newsroom employees, paper handlers, pressmen, engravers, mailers, delivery drivers, and people who insert items into the paper. Each union will schedule its own ratification vote.

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