After negotiations appeared to stall last night and into today, the New York Times will give notice to federal authorities under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification law (WARN) that it will close the Boston Globe’s plants. Under law, this notice is required and will last 60-days before any action is taken. In the meantime, the Globe will continue to operate.
The decision by the Times does not prevent both sides from reaching an agreement, and is being described by many in media circles as a tough negotiation tactic designed to push the unions to meet Times management demands. According to the AP both sides have agreed to return to the table for talks in about 2 days.
But the bad blood between both sides that I talked about during yesterday’s radio program and that has been published widely in different reports is only growing worse. The Globe unions have called the approach by the Times as “bullying” while others have openly questioned both the management skills of their parent company and their own level of sacrifice. Not exactly the building blocks to a long-term future.
With that said, no one should forget that the NY Times is in a world of financial hurt themselves. Not only have they cut salaries and reduced staff, they have mortgaged their property, borrowed over $200 million, and are believed to have over $1 billion in debt. With diminishing circulations and ad revenues, there is not a lot of positive news in the short term for the newspaper industry as a whole, but especially for the Times and Globe.
The best advice for the Times still remains to either consolidate operations with the Globe, adopt a more defined multi-platform strategy, or to dump the Globe as soon as possible and try and stop the bleeding. In either case, the road is not an easy one – but one has to question the business logic of keeping a division that stands to lose over $85 million this year and will certainly lose money for the foreseeable future.