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Newsday union overwhelmingly rejects proposed contract

The main Newsday building facing Pinelawn Road in

The main Newsday building facing Pinelawn Road in Melville. Credit: Newsday File / Andreas C. Constantinou / 2007

Unionized employees at Newsday Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract that sought wage reductions of 10 percent to 15 percent, longer work hours and reduced vacation.

In a 473-10 vote, members of Local 406 of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters turned down a three-year agreement that Newsday executives said was necessary to stem losses. Union negotiators said they had been told the newspaper lost about $7 million last year and that advertising revenue will be lower in the foreseeable future.

While acknowledging the concessions were undesirable, Local 406 president Michael O'Connor had urged adoption of the contract in hope of preventing job cuts. But George Tedeschi, GCC president and former Local 406 chief, said the agreement was unacceptable. He and Teamsters' president James P. Hoffa called for a "no" vote.

O'Connor said last night he wasn't surprised by the outcome. "I'm now aware that the people are willing to fight for what they believe," he said. "They were very unhappy with the entire proposal by Newsday."

He also said he had contacted Newsday executives about setting up a meeting for Monday. A Newsday spokeswoman confirmed the session.

Tedeschi said, "The message from this vote is that employees are very unhappy with the company's demand for massive concessions."

Newsday spokeswoman Deidra Parrish Williams said the contract was designed to help the paper weather an unusually severe downturn in the industry. Since 2008, Newsday has been a subsidiary of Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp.

"The objective was to preserve as many jobs as possible and to ensure Newsday remains a strong and viable company for its workforce and for Long Island," she said. "These are important issues and they must be resolved. We are naturally disappointed by this outcome. We worked closely with the union to come up with a contract that is fair and equitable given the challenging state of our industry and our business."

About 90 percent of eligible union members - from the newsroom, press room, transportation and other production areas - participated in the vote.

Papers across the country have demanded wage cuts and other concessions from their workers as advertisers and readers continue migrating to the Internet. The Rocky Mountain News in Denver and several other newspapers have closed. At The Boston Globe, members of the Newspaper Guild agreed last year to a pay cut of nearly 6 percent after parent The New York Times Co. threatened a shutdown.

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