Reporters and other rank-and-file members of The Providence Journal’s largest union will vote Wednesday on whether to approve a new three-year contract that would freeze wages and raise medical costs but may protect some jobs, the union’s chief told me this morning.
The Providence Newspaper Guild will hold a meeting for its 250 members on Monday, followed by question-and-answer sessions Tuesday and then a formal all-day vote Wednesday, union president John Hill told WPRI.com.
The votes will be counted Wednesday evening. “I don’t want to go to bed not knowing” the outcome, said Hill, a longtime Journal reporter.
Asked what he was hearing from members about the proposed agreement, Hill said: “Nobody’s happy about it. It sucks.”
But, he continued, the bargaining committee felt this was the best deal it could secure, particularly when newspaper employees elsewhere are taking wage cuts as opposed to the proposed freeze at the Projo.
To demonstrate how much the Journal has changed since the last contract was negotiated in 2007, Hill went into the paper’s archive to compare its Jan. 25 edition from that year with the one from this year.
The Jan. 25, 2007, Projo was 64 pages long; the Jan. 25, 2011, edition was down to just 36 pages.
The paper’s revenue has fallen by double-digits and its head count has been reduced by more than 100 over that time period. ”For us to get a freeze – I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled about it, and I don’t blame them for not being thrilled about it, but I do think in the context of what’s going on, it’s the best of a bad situation,” Hill said.
The union chief also expressed cautious optimism about the potential that better days are ahead for the newspaper industry. As publishers return to profitability, that could draw in new owners – perhaps including employee owners, as is the case in Portland – and help the union get back some of what it has given up recently, Hill suggested.