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Creditors Take Over Philly Papers Tonight; Pay Cuts And Furloughs For Newsroom Employees

The Philadelphia Media Network is finally closing on the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, by close of business today.

The company, which was formed by the senior lenders to Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, which declared bankruptcy in February 2009, had already once attempted to purchase the newspapers but the deal fell flat last month when the company was unable to reach agreements with all the papers’ unions.

The do-over sale included no such provision, so the new owners take control of the paper tonight.

The following memo was posted to the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild’s website yesterday. Note the 2 percent pay cut, ten days of furloughs, and (on the bright side) a new 401(k) match program:

Dear Guild member,

Philadelphia Media Network takes control of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com by close of business Friday when the long and frustrating bankruptcy process finally ends. This means that the collective bargaining agreement between the Newspaper Guild and the new employer, which was ratified on Aug. 24, will go take effect.

One condition of the new contact is a 2-percent across the board reduction in pay for all Guild members. You will see this reflected for the first time in your Oct. 22 paycheck.

The 40-hour-work week will take effect the week of Oct. 24. Managers should alert you of any schedule changes on Monday.

Another item of great interest to members is the 401(k) match program that was earned during bargaining. In the coming days the company will issue information about the 401(k) program. An open enrollment will begin for any employees who do not currently have a 401(k) and those who do should automatically receive a 50 percent employer match on their contributions, up to a maximum employer contribution of 3 percent salary.

Regarding furloughs, the deadline is Nov. 1 to request furlough time between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2011. After Nov. 1 department heads will begin sorting all requests by seniority. Furlough schedules will be posted Dec. 15.

The second furlough period is Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 2011 but those requests need not be submitted until March 31, 2011.

All requests for furlough time should be made in writing to your department head. Full-time employees must take a total of 10 unpaid furlough days in 2011. Part-timers will be on a pro-rated furlough schedule based on their regular hours worked and should contact their department head for more information.

Many members have asked whether unemployment compensation can be received for furlough time. This determination varies from state to state. Unemployment eligibility requirements, such as a minimum length of employment and specified earnings in determination periods, typically still apply. Please contact the unemployment office for the state in which you work, not in which you live. In Pennsylvania, http://www.dli.state.pa.us or call 888-313-7284 and for New Jersey, visit http://www.state.nj.us/nj/employ/unemp/ or call 856-507-2340 for additional information.

Guild contracts should be printed in a matter of days and distributed next week to all members.

The new contract language is still posted on the Guild’s website, www.local-10.com. Except as modified, all terms and conditions of our current contract remain in effect.

As usual, if you have any questions, please contact Guild Executive Director Bill Ross at BRoss@local-10.com or at 267-240-8540.

In solidarity,

Dan Gross, President,
Bill Ross, Executive Director
The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia/Communications Workers of America Local 38010

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