Sun-Times, Guild agree on new contract

Chicago Sun-TimesA tentative contract settlement between the parent company of the Sun-Times and the union representing editorial employees could lead to the rehiring of some of the photographers who were laid off by the newspaper earlier this year, sources said.

Negotiators for Sun-Times Media and the Chicago Newspaper Guild reached agreement late Friday on a new three-year contract, insiders said, covering 130 reporters, copy editors and other editorial staff at the Sun-Times, Pioneer Press, Post-Tribune in Merrillville, Ind., Lake County News-Sun and Joliet Herald-News.

The tentative agreement, expected to be announced by a federal mediator Monday, still requires a ratification vote by the union membership. Guild employees, whose previous contract expired in October 2012, have been operating under a memorandum of understanding signed with the company’s former owners.

While the memorandum of understanding remains in place, sources said, the new contract does away with mandatory two-week unpaid furloughs in effect for the past four years.

The agreement does not compensate employees for salary they lost through the furloughs or restore the 15 percent pay cuts they accepted when the late James Tyree rescued the bankrupt Sun-Times Media from liquidation in 2009. But it does provide a 2 percent pay increase in the third year of the three-year deal, sources said.

Wrapports LLC, headed by Michael Ferro Jr., bought the company from the former Tyree group in 2011.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the deal is that the company agreed to bring back a number of the 28 photographers who were fired when Sun-Times Media laid off its entire photography department last May. It’s not known how many of them will be offered jobs or on what basis they will be chosen.

In exchange for the agreement on the photographers, the union is expected to drop its unfair labor relations charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

If ratified, the new contract will take effect Jan. 1.

Monday morning update: Statement from Jim Kirk, publisher and editor in chief of the Sun-Times: “We are moving rapidly to change our business to meet new needs of our readers and advertisers. This new agreement will ensure that our employees and management are working together to meet the demands of the market. We were able to reach an agreement that reflects the financial pressures of our business.”

Statement from David Pollard, president of the Chicago Newspaper Guild: “Myself along with the members of Chicago Newspaper Guild look forward to working with the company to achieve its objectives and are ready to move forward with management to make sure the company remains successful. We’d also like to thank Wrapports, LLC, Chairman Michael Ferro, his negotiating team and management for reaching this agreement.”