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Contract Talks Break Off In Philly Newspaper Strike

September 7, 1985

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The city’s two daily newspapers halted publication early Saturday when members of nine unions went on strike in a contract dispute.

To fill the void, television stations planned expanded news shows and special strike coverage while newsstands scrambled to satisfy readers by importing suburban and out-of-town papers.

Picket lines formed at 12:01 a.m. Saturday at the plant that prints The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News. The nine unions represent 4,774 employees, who had been working under the old contract for seven days while talks continued.

″There are no meetings this weekend. I don’t know when there will be any. There’s no reason to call any meetings,″ said federal mediator Robert Kyler. ″Every issue on the table is economic.″

The strike killed publication of the Sunday Inquirer, which has a circulation of 1 million. Only 15,000 copies of Saturday morning’s Inquirer were printed when the presses stopped. The dawn press run of the afternoon Daily News, which has a circulation of 280,000 but does not print on Sunday, never began.

Informal talks were held between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. without resolution between Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., owner of the two papers, and the Council of Newspaper Unions, which represents mailers, pressmen, drivers, machinists, photoengravers, clerks, secretaries, advertising and circulation personnel, reporters and some editors and columnists.

Management offered a package that would raise salaries and benefits 17 percent over three years, but the unions demanded boosts worth 38 percent, said William Broom, spokesman for the Knight-Ridder subsidiary.

″That would force us to pass on costs to our readers and advertisers. That’s totally out of line with the rate of inflation,″ Broom said. ″When they’re ready to talk turkey, we’ll be more than happy to talk.″

Broom described the 41/2 -hour flurry of talks leading up to the strike ″as a shell game.″ William Gullifer, union council president and Teamsters vice president, accused management of ″hardballing.″

Another stumbling block was a union demand for a no-layoff clause for 967 part-time mailers, a demand Broom said is ″not in the realm of reality.″

As readers gobbled up copies of New York papers at newsstands, WPVI-TV added 15 minutes to its 11 p.m. newscast Saturday and Sunday and planned a special noon news show Sunday. WCAU-TV also planned a special late edition with an extra 30 minutes of news this weekend.

KYW-TV said it would include horoscopes, baseball standings, newspaper columnists and the comics as part of its regular news shows. ″It’s what folks would miss from their paper,″ said managing editor Bob Andreson.

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