Times Co. Calls Union Back to Negotiations After CEO Departure

New York Times Co. contacted union leaders about restarting contract negotiations a day after the publisher announced last week the retirement of Chief Executive Officer Janet Robinson, according to the local Newspaper Guild.

Negotiating groups plan to meet in January on a date to be determined, Newspaper Guild of New York President Bill O’Meara said in a telephone interview yesterday. The guild, representing almost 1,100 workers at the company’s flagship New York Times newspaper, said the two sides last met June 1.

“We have been asking for full meeting since,” O’Meara said. “A lot of the big issues have yet to be dealt with.”

The negotiations come at a “strange time” as Times Co. pushes a pension freeze for some employees that is intended to save $9 million a year, about the same amount as Robinson’s reported retirement payout, O’Meara said. The company said Dec. 15 that Robinson, who will retire Dec. 31 after seven years as CEO, will be paid $4.5 million as a consultant for one year. Reuters, citing unidentified sources, reported this week that Robinson also stands to make $10.9 million in pension benefits.

“That would have paid pensions for over 1,000 employees,” O’Meara said. “Our employees are very upset.”

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the New York Times newspaper, declined to comment on union negotiations.

Letter to Sulzberger

Times employees published an open letter to Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. at Saveourtimes.com. The letter has more than 100 signatures.

“We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent,” the letter reads. “Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.”

Times Co., which will have to pay $33 million in to the employee pension plan next year, proposed halting its annual accrual payments into the fund, O’Meara estimates. Even with a pension freeze, the company would still have to fund the pension at about $20 million to $25 million each year to honor prior obligations, he said.

Times Co. fell 0.3 percent to $7.79 at the close yesterday and has lost 21 percent this year.

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