Union Action Jeopardizes Sale of Sun-Times

Rejection means end of company, workers told

Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009  |  Updated 6:30 PM CDT
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Union Action Jeopardizes Sale of Sun-Times

Unionized workers in the Chicago Sun-Times' newsroom have rejected demands for deep pay cuts and work-rule changes, putting at risk a planned sale of the financially struggling newspaper to an investment group.

STMG Holdings LLC, led by Chicago banker Jim Tyree, wants several concessions from the Sun-Times Media Group Inc.'s 18 unions, without which it will not go through with the deal to bid for the company in a bankruptcy auction.

Members of the Chicago Newspaper Guild were asked to lock in for at least three years the temporary 15 percent wage cuts imposed this spring. Other demands included wiping out seniority rules and reducing severance guarantees. The union rejected those demands 83-22 Tuesday.

Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich has told workers that a rejection will mean the end of the company.

Tyree has said he won't walk away from the bid until Sept. 29, but said he doesn't want to get into negotiations over the issues.

"I'm not going to be changing my position," he told the Chicago Tribune. "If (I do) I'll surely lose. And I'm trying to keep from losing."

He told the Sun-Times that he recognizes that what he's asking goes at some employees' core values, but said there's no other way to proceed.

"There's no room to negotiate work rules or compensation or pensions because I'm planning on our (investor) group losing money for a good long time," he told the newspaper.

Tom Thibeault, the union's executive director, said workers understand sacrifices are necessary and want to negotiate.

"This shouldn't be taken as a vote against Tyree, the investors," Thibeault told The Associated Press. "We think he's going to be a pretty good fit. The problem we have is it's pretty much take it or leave it. It guts our contract."

Unions have until Sept. 29 to approve the concessions required by the potential buyer.

Union voters at the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana and the Lake County News-Sun also voted down the proposals.

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