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Denver newspaper agency, unions reach agreement on wage, benefit cuts

David Milstead and Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Unions representing workers at the Denver Newspaper Agency have reached a tentative agreement on wage and benefit cuts that average 11.7 percent.

The agency, a joint venture that handles the business operations of the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post, approached its unions in December. The agency sought $18 million in concessions as part of a broader $35 million cost-cutting package.

It’s not clear if the tentative agreement, reached at 1 a.m. today, meets that $18 million goal.



Tony Mulligan, administrative officer at the Denver Newspaper Guild, said the concessions were made with the awareness that the agency was struggling financially but working through a process to protect union members as much as possible.

Mulligan could not rule out agency layoffs even after a deal is approved. “I don’t know if there will be staffing reductions or not,” he said.



The agency has about 1,080 union employees, including about 900 subject to today’s deal.

In 2007, the last year for which financial results are available, the agency had about $295 million in expenses, not counting depreciation.

Executives at E.W. Scripps, the owner of the Rocky, said in a December letter to Denver Post executives that the agency’s banks had cut off lending to the agency. The agency has made no cash distributions to the partners since June.



Scripps said Dec. 4 it would try to sell the Rocky, and it said it accepted bids through Jan. 16. CEO Rich Boehne said last week that he expected an announcement on the paper’s fate by the end of the first quarter March 31.

Today’s tentative agreement includes salary reductions averaging 7 percent, 10 unpaid days off for most workers, the suspension of the 401(k) match, cuts in sick days and mileage reimbursements, and increases in health and dental premiums.

Management will be taking the same wage and benefit concessions, the union said. Agency management has agreed that the companywide payroll expense will not increase until all concessions are restored, the union said.

Mulligan said if the agency has “verifiable profits” ” something that will be checked twice a year ” some of the concessions, including wages, 401(k) company match, dental insurance, vacation and mileage reimbursement, might be reversed.

The agency did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Mulligan said Denver Post union employees are close to completing negotiations on similar concessions, with a bargaining round scheduled for this afternoon.

Mulligan said a vote on the tentative deal will happen as early as March 8, but the union will wait until the Rocky’s fate is learned.

Finance Editor David Milstead can be reached at milstead@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2648.

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