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Blade Locks Out Engravers Union

August 20, 2006

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ The Blade on Sunday locked out the nine employees of its engravers union, one of several unions negotiating new contracts at the newspaper.

The newspaper will fill the jobs with management and temporary workers and does not expect production to be interrupted, spokeswoman Luann Sharp said. The workers make the plates needed to print the paper.

Members of the Graphic Communications International Union were notified early Sunday, and the one employee remaining on the premises was told to clean out his locker and turn in his identification badges, union President Ron Garcia said.

Eight unions representing about 650 workers have been negotiating with the company since their contracts expired March 21, and one agreement has been reached. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers agreed to a three-year contract in July that included wage and benefit cuts.

The newspaper had no plans to lock out any other unions, Sharp said. ``It’s more of a statement to all of our unions of how committed we are to getting agreements and moving beyond this,″ she said.

The company and the engravers union have complained about lagging negotiations and disagreements on a clause that would give administrators more flexibility to control staffing levels, layoffs and mandatory overtime shifts. Previous contracts did not include such a clause.

The lockout will be in effect until a new contract is signed, The Blade said on its Web site. The union had no plans to picket but planned to ask advertisers to cancel their business with The Blade, Garcia said. During the lockout, affected workers are eligible to receive unemployment benefits as well as supplemental pay from the union, he said.

The last contract agreement, in 2003, included a three-year wage freeze. Employees worked for about nine months without a contract before reaching a deal.

The Blade is owned by Block Communications Inc. and has a daily circulation of 135,000 and 180,000 on Sundays.

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