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Sun Negotiators Drop Demand on Seniority

June 24, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Negotiators for The Sun dropped a demand related to seniority rights for new workers as talks between the newspaper and its newsroom union neared a possible strike deadline, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Negotiators for The Sun and its newsroom union broke off talks shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday, the final day of a contract for about 650 of the newspaper’s employees, but were expected to resume later in the day.

Management gave the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild a proposal that reflected changes made since bargaining began eight weeks ago, said Sun spokesman Charles Fancher.

The Sun also withdrew a proposal to base layoffs for new workers on skill instead of seniority, he said.

Guild representatives could not be reached Tuesday morning; its Baltimore office said no one was available to comment.

The contract, which covers reporters, graphic artists, photographers, some advertising sales officials and janitors, expires at midnight Tuesday.

If negotiators cannot reach a deal on a new contract, union members could vote to strike. They could also opt to extend the current contract or continue working without a contract.

The talks have been marked by the newspaper’s preparations to continue publishing if there is a strike, including the training of temporary workers, and a series of actions by the union to call attention to the talks. A byline strike entered a ninth day Tuesday, as reporters, photographers and artists withheld their names from their work.

The Sun made two new offers late Monday, Fancher said earlier. One calls for increasing the amount of annual raises in the later years of the proposed contract while reducing the amount of performance-based salary increases. The other offers a higher signing bonus for ratifying a contract before midnight Tuesday, when the current four-year contract expires, and signing it before July 3.

``They gave us a revised wage proposal,″ said Cet Parks of the newspaper guild, which represents about half of the newspaper’s 1,300 employees. ``But it still had problematic elements, like pay-for-performance and a wage freeze in the first year.″

Also Monday, guild members distributed letters asking Sun subscribers to boycott the newspaper if there is a strike. The guild also encouraged its members at the newspaper to wear black Tuesday.

The last time Sun workers went on strike was in 1987, for six days.

The Sun, acquired by the Chicago-based Tribune Co. three years ago, has a daily circulation of 306,799 and a Sunday circulation of 466,916, Fancher said.

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On the Net:

The (Baltimore) Sun: http://www.sunspot.net

Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild: http://www.wbng.org

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