Denver Newspaper Agency seeks union concessions
DENVER, Colorado ” The Denver Newspaper Agency, which handles the business operations of The Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, has asked six unions to accept $20 million in wage and benefit concessions by Jan. 16, the News reported Friday.
Missy Miller, DNA senior vice president of human resources, told the unions in a letter that new labor contracts must be reached by that date so the agency can try to renegotiate $130 million in debt.
“If that fails, the financial health of DNA will be even more significantly impacted than it has been to date, and the employer will have to consider all options available to it,” Miller wrote this week.
DNA spokesman Jim Nolan confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that the agency had sent the unions the letter seeking concessions, but he said could not confirm the $20 million figure.
He declined to offer any other details.
“We don’t want to be negotiating in public, we want to save our conversations for the unions,” he said.
The Post and the News are partners in a joint operating agreement between MediaNews Group Inc., which owns The Post, and E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the News.
William Dean Singleton, publisher of The Post and chief executive officer of MediaNews, did not immediately return a call from the AP seeking comment on the $20 million figure. Singleton is also chairman of the board of the AP.
Scripps has put the News and its 50 percent stake in the DNA’s joint operating agreement up for sale. It expects the News to lose $15 million this year; the newspaper industry has been battered by the economy and competition from the Internet.
The unions have asked to inspect the agency’s books, said Tracy Simmons, an administrative officer at Denver Newspaper Guild Local 37074. “Any time a company says it has an inability to pay, unions have the right to examine the books,” Simmons said.
DNA spokesman Jim Nolan said the agency would respond directly to the unions.
On Dec. 12, Singleton asked unions at The Post and the DNA to reopen their labor contracts, Guild spokesman Tony Mulligan said. Mulligan said wage, benefit and job cuts were being sought.
DNA Chief Executive Harry Whipple said he met with Singleton and the unions but didn’t provide details. The News reported Friday that Singleton told the unions $18 million in cuts were needed at the DNA and $2 million from The Post.
DNA contracts are set to expire in October 2009, while The Post contract is to expire in March 2010, according to the News. The Newspaper Guild represents about 180 employees at The Post and 550 of 1,050 employees at the DNA. Other unions, including the Teamsters, represent other agency union employees.
The Denver Newspaper Agency received a $150 million credit line in 2005 to pay for new presses and renovate a printing plant. The unsecured loan is due in full in October 2010, the News reported.
MediaNews also owns The Detroit News and more than 50 other dailies.
Last week, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded MediaNews’ debt ratings to a non-investment grade rating of “Caa3,” which is the third-lowest rating on a 21-notch scale. It based the rating on concerns that advertising sales declines at its daily newspapers would drag on longer than expected.
MediaNews said last week it is meeting the terms of all of its debt agreements. It also said more than half of its public debt and much of its bank debt is held by MediaNews shareholders.