Philly newspaper drivers again reject contract aimed at allowing bankruptcy sale to creditors

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Philly newspaper drivers again reject contract

PHILADELPHIA — Drivers who deliver Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers have once again overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer aimed at clearing the way for creditors to take over the papers.

Teamsters Local 628 President John Laigaie said members voted 191-4 against the proposal Sunday. He said he thinks members are still balking at moving from a defined pension to a 401(k) plan, and they also feel that sacrifices in past years have gone unappreciated.

“I think the membership felt that it’s not fair for these investment companies that are buying the place to throw their biggest investment out the window, which is their pension,” he said. “These people have been putting money away for 10, 20, 30 years.”

The union overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer 182-3 last month.

Fred Hodara, a lawyer for the new owners, has called it “not feasible” for any new owner to take on the pension plan. Philadelphia Media Network Inc., a financial consortium led by the hedge funds Angelo Gordon & Co., Alden Global Capital and CIT Group Inc., has instead pledged a 3 percent match of individual 401(k) contributions.

A U.S. judge had given creditors until Tuesday to wrap up the thorny, 18-month bankruptcy sale of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. Chief Operating Officer Bob Hall has said creditors would not close the deal without signed contracts from the company’s unions. Hall did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said the union representing machinists voted 28-4 earlier Sunday to accept a contract offer, leaving the Teamsters the only unsigned union. Union officials could not be reached for comment. The press operators’ union voted 48-28 last week to ratify its contract after also rejecting an earlier offer.

Reporters, photographers and other members of the local Newspaper Guild agreed last month to concessions that include a 2 percent wage cut and two weeks of unpaid furlough in each year of the three-year contract. They had lost company pension contributions several years ago. In return, the new owners pledged to avoid newsroom layoffs for at least a year.

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