The New York Times is hoping to negotiate separate contracts for employees depending on which division of the newspaper they work for, according to a memo obtained by Jim Romenesko.

The union says that Times management has “inexplicably dropped a bomb” on the negotiation process after months of “incremental progress” toward one contract.

“By demanding to negotiate two separate contracts, management may have invalidated all the work previously done in subcommittee over nearly 17 months, including tentative agreements on job descriptions, the workweek, casual and temporary workers – in total, 21 contractual issues that had seemingly been settled,” the memo said. “It also means that the Guild may have to set up a separate negotiating committee for a new digital-only contract. This wrench in the proceedings came after the company negotiators blamed the Guild for lack of progress earlier in the talks.”

New York guild president Bill O’Meara said that he believes the Times is pushing to declare impasse, after which it can impose any contract it wants (which would currently include a pension freeze, a longer workweek, and other conditions).

The declaration by Times management that the union would have to negotiate two separate contracts also means that the Guild is firing back: it plans to file grievances over digital employees doing the work of print, something it had overlooked in the past “because of its belief that both sides were working toward one contract.”

The next few months of negotiations will certainly be interesting ones…