Pulling Boston Globe back from the brink
The compromise would be for the union to abandon the archaic concept of preserving lifetime jobs for its most senior members – and for the Globe to agree to fund an enriched severance payment to any “lifetime” employee who is laid off by the company now or in the future.
Then, both sides can get on with the decidedly unpleasant business of implementing some $10 million in cuts that will come at the expense of the 700 editorial, advertising and business employees represented by the Guild. The company today said it had come to terms on expense reductions with the six other unions beside the Guild that repreent Globe employees.
Difficult as cost cuts may be, they are a necessary step to try to staunch losses that management has said would be $85 million this year. In light of the size of the stated losses, the givebacks requested from the union are moderate, as this sort of thing goes these days.
By all accounts, including this one in the Globe, the Guild has agreed to the $10 million in cuts demanded by management.
But the negotiations evidently have foundered on management’s demand that the union abandon the lifetime job guarantees that were given to some 700 Guild employees working at the company as of 1992, according to this backgrounder in the Globe. Approximately 170 “lifetime” workers remain on the Globe’s payroll today.
The idea of lifetime jobs seems hopelessly quaint in this era of Darwinian globalization, continuous technological disruption and profound economic uncertainty.
It also was born of arrogance on the part of publishers who thought their market supremacy would endure forever and arrogance on the part of unions who once wielded sufficient power to intimidate management into agreeing to this perfectly preposterous proposition.
Apart from federal judges and tinhorn dictators, no one has the luxury of a job for life. And no one should.
At a time management and labor ought to be working closely together to help restore the economic health of the Boston Globe, frustration and fatigue have overtaken common sense and evidently escalated negotiations from a merely unpleasant exercise to out-and-out rancorous one.
If the collective goal is to help the Globe to carry on in as good a shape as possible, then both sides need to bend on the issue of lifetime jobs and get on with the serious business that lies ahead.