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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Post-Gazette Owners Talk of Sale

This article ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday, September 14, 2006

Post-Gazette Says Lack of Labor Pacts Could Force Sale


Management of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced today that it was "prepared to take steps to put the paper up for sale" if it did not have labor agreements with its unions by Dec. 31.
Contracts covering more than 1,100 unionized workers expire at the end of the year, and the paper's management said contracts that significantly reduce expenses are necessary because the Post-Gazette has lost almost $23 million since 2003.

The paper has lost nearly $12 million in the first eight months of this year.
Tracey DeAngelo, director of marketing for the Post-Gazette, said the company made proposals to the unions in March but has not received substantive counter-offers.

"The Post-Gazette emphasized today that the unions need to begin constructive labor negotiations as soon as possible because the current owners are prepared to put the newspaper up for sale if the unions fail to reach new contract agreements by Dec. 31," according to a news release from the company.

Fourteen unions represent 954 full-time and 172 part-time workers.
The unions, represented by a Unity Council, have said the company's proposals go beyond pay and benefit concessions and would gut most of the job protections the unions have won through bargaining over the years. Union leaders met with the company in March but decided not to continue over the summer as long as the company refused to adjust its original proposal.
The unions have not threatened to strike.

Union contracts carry specific dates when bargaining must begin, and Ms. DeAngelo said she was not aware of any unions refusing to go to the table when required. Most are required to begin talks by the fall.

Ms. DeAngelo said the last year the paper made a profit was 2002, and it has made money in only six of the past 13 years. She attributed that primarily to employee costs that she said are substantially above the industry average for comparable newspapers.
She also acknowledged revenue has declined because of such changes as the loss of Kauffman's department store advertising. She said the company would be trying new strategies to increase revenue but couldn't disclose them.

Ms. DeAngelo said she knew of no plans to make management changes.
The Post-Gazette's owner, Block Communications, Inc., is involved in bitter negotiations with its paper in Toledo, Ohio, The Blade. Contracts there expired in March, and the company has locked some of the unions out of the building, handling their work with management and replacement workers.

The Post-Gazette is Western Pennsylvania's largest daily newspaper, with a circulation of 235,901 daily and 398,011 Sunday.

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