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Oakland Tribune Employees Tentatively OK 11% Cut in Pay

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Employees at the beleaguered Oakland Tribune have tentatively agreed to accept an 11% cut in wages that the publisher said was necessary to keep the newspaper from closing.

An agreement, reached about 4:45 a.m. Saturday and announced Sunday afternoon, would reduce wages for union and non-union workers earning more than $25,000 a year. The pact, which has been ratified by one union but is also subject to approval of five others representing Tribune employees, would affect about 590 of the Tribune’s 639 employees.

Under the agreement, any new employees in entry-level positions would be hired at wages 20% below current scale for new hires.

The accord, which expires Dec. 31, “gives this newspaper new life and new hope for the future,” said Editor and Publisher Robert C. Maynard. He praised the unions’ spirit of cooperation and “very clear sense of commitment” to keeping the struggling paper alive.

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Maynard said the concessions are expected to save $1.3 million to $1.5 million this year. Top weekly scale for experienced reporters, photographers and editors will drop by $77 to $623.

In return, employees, whose wages will be reduced beginning with the Jan. 23 payroll, negotiated the right to a flexible work schedule that could reduce their workweeks by three hours, or about 9%.

Some workers will be able to arrange four-day schedules, whereas others could choose to take a half-day off each week, according to negotiator Doug Cuthbertson, chairman of the Conference of Newspaper Unions.

The company also agreed to put a union representative on its board of directors and to institute a profit-sharing plan for employees, if the newspaper ever gets back into the black.

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Maynard acknowledged that the troubled economy will make rebuilding circulation and advertising revenues difficult but added that “we do not regard this economy as so hopeless that we cannot grow.”

The Tribune’s circulation has steadily dwindled to about 121,500. Maynard said advertising revenues slipped by $4 million to $6 million in 1990, partly because of effects of the Oct. 17, 1989, earthquake.

Cuthbertson said union officials realized that they had little choice but to accept the reductions after the Tribune opened its books to a union auditor. “It looked as if this was the only way to keep the paper alive,” he said.

City Editor John Raess, who moved into management ranks four months ago but whose pay will also be slashed, said employees’ attitude about the wage cut, which Maynard outlined Jan. 3, has been “like the grief process--from rage to denial to a sort of grudging acceptance.”


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