New York Times Reaches Tentative Deal for New Contract

The New York Times Co. and the union representing employees at its flagship newspaper have reached a tentative agreement after more than 18 months of negotiations.

The Newspaper Guild of New York, which represents the workers, said the accord was struck late yesterday with the help of mediator Martin Scheinman. The agreement preserves the workers’ pensions, protects medical benefits and boosts compensation, Guild President Bill O’Meara said in an e-mailed statement.

“The Guild Negotiating Committee has voted to support the settlement,” O’Meara said. “We will provide more information in coming days, and a ratification meeting will be scheduled in the near future.”

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson said the two sides reached an agreement “in concept” on a new five-year contract, the newspaper reported on its website. The deal hasn’t yet been put down in writing, and details won’t be coming soon, the paper reported. Robert Christie, a spokesman for the Times, said there would be no further comment on the deal.

An agreement with the union, which represents newsroom workers and other employees, would remove one of the challenges facing incoming Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson. The former British Broadcasting Corp. executive, who is scheduled to take charge on Nov. 12, will have to cope with a shaky advertising market and lingering questions about a sex scandal at his former company.

Ad Slump

The union has been negotiating with the company against the backdrop of a declining newspaper industry. Weaker-than-expected advertising revenue led to a surprise third-quarter loss at New York Times Co. last week, and executives warned to expect more of the same this quarter.

The company’s print-ad sales for the period dropped 11 percent, and total ad revenue declined 8.9 percent. The loss from continuing operations was 1 cent a share, excluding severance and other costs. Analysts had estimated a profit of 8 cents on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The stock tumbled 22 percent after the results were released on Oct. 25, the biggest one-day drop in at least three decades.

Scheinman, who was appointed mediator on Oct. 10, has been working with the two sides to expedite an agreement. The defined-benefit pension -- prized by employees for predictable payments at a time when many workers have shifted to more volatile 401(k) plans -- has loomed as one of the most contentious issues.

Savile Scandal

Thompson’s arrival at the Times has been clouded by questions about how the BBC handled a story about one of its former stars. Last December, reporters for the BBC show “Newsnight” prepared a broadcast featuring interviews with women saying they had been sexually abused as children by Jimmy Savile, a popular BBC TV host who died in 2011.

Top editors at the BBC knew of the pending report, including BBC News Director Helen Boaden, according to people familiar with the matter. Boaden reported to Thompson, who has said he knew nothing of the Savile report and had no involvement in its cancellation.

“Mark has provided a detailed account of that matter and I am satisfied that he played no role in the cancellation of the segment,” Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said last week on a conference call.

Shares of the New York-based company declined 1.4 percent to $8.19 on Oct. 26, the most recent trading day. The stock has climbed 6 percent this year.

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