Now that contract negotiations are a thing of the past, employees and managers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette can return to the business of publishing a daily newspaper -- for another three years, at least.
The last of the paper's 14 unions -- which together represent more than 1,000 employees -- ratified their new three-year contracts over the weekend.
Mike Bucsko, president of the Newspaper Guild, called the deal "concessionary" and said all involved were just glad the negotiation process was over. The deal will expire in March 2010.
The new agreement will be painful for employees. Workers will begin kicking in 5 percent of their salaries annually -- up to $50,000 -- for health care, the tab for which had previously been picked up by the company. Wages will be frozen for the life of the new deal. While there won't be layoffs, there will be a reduction in the number of positions. The newsroom staff of about 260 is scheduled to lose 10 positions through buyouts and attrition. The Teamsters union and its 375 drivers and mechanics were the hardest hit, losing 80 positions to buyouts.
The cuts are an attempt to stanch the flow of red ink at the P-G. The paper claims it suffered a $20 million operating loss last year. Daily circulation has also dropped over the past six months: from 230,887 to just over 212,000, according to the Associated Press.
According to contract details obtained by City Paper, employees will have to contribute 2 percent of their salaries to fully fund their pensions -- and those benefits will be frozen. Retirees will also be asked to pay 25 percent of their health-care costs, which had previously been provided at no cost.