Friday, May 29, 2009

Portland (Maine) Press Herald Guild Accepts Concessions

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald's largest union voted by 161 to 19 this afternoon to accept wage and benefit concessions in an effort to allow the Seattle Times Co.'s sale of its Blethen Maine subsidiary. A union official told reporters that he expects the deal to close by mid-June.

Three more unions still need to vote on the deal, which includes a 10 percent wage cut, a two-year pay freeze, a pension freeze and a two-year suspension of 401k contributions. In return, employees get a 15 percent stake in the company.

Richard Connor, editor and publisher of the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has been negotiating to buy the Press Herald, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and other Blethen Maine properties.

He thanked the union for its months of work "to reach what we believe will be a turning point for all three Blethen Maine newspapers."

Newspaper Guild President Tom Bell told the Associated Press that concessions from the union — including an unknown number of layoffs — represent members' contribution to an ownership stake. Under the deal, three union representatives will serve on the board of the company.

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