Inquirer, Daily News, and guild members approve new labor contract

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Sixteen days after voting down a similar offer, journalists and other Newspaper Guild members at the Inquirer, the Daily News, and overwhelmingly approved a three-year contract that promises better health insurance but ends seniority protections in the event of a layoff.

The vote was 203-79.

The current contract between the Newspaper Guild and Philadelphia Media Network, owner of the publications, was to expire in July.

“We can now focus on moving forward and serving the people of Philadelphia with great journalism,” said publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger. “We have wonderful people here, we respect them. … We have this resolved and we’re looking to move forward.”

The new deal, unlike the previous offer, was endorsed by the union bargaining committee.

“Once again, the Newspaper Guild and its members stepped up to help try to push this company forward,” said local president Howard Gensler. “We’re disappointed with the company’s bargaining position with regard to seniority, but they’ll have no more excuses now. We’re taking the company at its word that they don’t want layoffs.”

Guild members will join a more advantageous health-insurance fund, and the company will pay to keep workers’ weekly contributions the same in the first year. It also will cover any rate increases up to 6 percent in the second and third years.

Some workers will get pay raises as their contract merges with that of the main unit, but other Guild members will see no increase. Workers will receive a $1,000 signing bonus, up from the $500 offered in the earlier proposal.

The company will offer a buyout — 26 weeks of pay and six months of health-care coverage — to newsroom Guild members who are 55 or older and have at least 15 years of service.

The new contract makes length of service one of four primary factors in deciding who stays. The others are performance, qualifications, and skills and abilities.

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