2/29/08

Big Print news union dispute drags on

While The Seattle Times Co. says it still intends to outsource its trucking operations and vehicle maintenance, company employees continue to do those jobs — and apparently will for at least another month. Late last year The Times said it would transfer the work to Penske Logistics and eliminate up to 80 company jobs, effective today. But the company remains locked in negotiations with Teamsters Local 174, which represents most of the affected workers.

Although the local's contract with The Times expired Thursday, both sides agree it will be extended indefinitely until one party notifies the other it intends to terminate the agreement in 30 days. So far neither has.

Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie would not discuss when or if The Times might act. The Teamsters have threatened to strike if the outsourcing plan moves forward.

The two sides last met Wednesday. Teamsters business agent Patty Warren said the session convinced her The Times is serious about outsourcing, and that the plan isn't a company ploy to extract contract concessions from the union.

Penske has offered to hire some Times drivers, she said, but some would lose their jobs. Those who are hired would face reductions in benefits and overtime protection, she added.

The Times says the outsourcing would help it cut costs to deal with declining revenue.

"We continue to be hopeful we can come to agreement [with the Teamsters] on how to transfer our bulk hauling work to Penske," Times Vice President Alayne Fardella said in an e-mail to employees this week.

"The longer this process drags on, the longer dollars are diverted from necessary investments and the more difficult it will be to delay additional budget cuts elsewhere," she said.

She accused the union of stalling. Warren said the negotiations are too important to rush.

(seattletimes.nwsource.com)

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