The only surprise contained in "Newspaper Agency, Unions Reach Agreement on Wage, Benefit Cuts," a just-published Rocky Mountain News article about a deal between the Denver Newspaper Agency and assorted labor organizations regarding a new contract, is that the reductions weren't deeper. Early in the process, one source suggested that the DNA wanted to lower pay and bennies by a whopping 20 percent. However, the Denver Newspaper Guild estimates the final figure at 11.7 percent. That number includes "salary reductions averaging 7 percent, 10 unpaid days off for most workers, the suspension of the 401(k) match, cuts in sick days and mileage reimbursements, and increases in health and dental premiums," writes David Milstead, the piece's author.
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Under ordinary circumstances, members of the DNG (whose spokesman, Tony Mulligan, wasn't available to comment for this blog) would be apoplectic over such a package. But betcha they vote to support it when given the chance, likely during the first part of March. The parade of catastrophes in the newspaper industry nationwide -- today's blog "How the Troubles at the San Francisco Chronicle Echo in Denver" contains several recent examples -- is so sweeping that workers have less bargaining power than at any time in recent memory.
Will this accord have a major impact on the future of the Rocky Mountain News, which remains up for sale? Probably not. It's hard to imagine that E.W. Scripps, the Rocky's owner, has been waiting to see if a settlement would be reached, since pretty much every press observer expected things to go down this way. Then again, the deal may provide more financial clarity for MediaNews Group, the Post's parent company, potentially speeding up negotiations with Scripps to alter or end their partnership in the Denver newspaper joint operating agreement. If so, the long-delayed end of a drama that began in December could finally be drawing near.