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Boston Globe talks go on, union seeks deadline extension

NEGOTIATIONS continued yesterday in Boston between unions at The Boston Globe and its owner, The New York Times Co., yet it was unclear whether the company would extend its midnight deadline for the newspapers' employees to make US$20 million in concessions.

Hanging over the talks is a threat to close the 137-year-old newspaper. But as of yesterday, the company had not given 60 days' notice to Massachusetts regulators and Globe employees, which would be required by law.

Leaders of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's largest union, asked for an extension of yesterday's deadline after discovering what they called a US$4.5 million accounting error. The Guild, which has been asked to come up with US$10 million of the $20 million in concessions, said ownership mistakenly was counting the salaries and benefits of 80 people who have left their jobs at the Globe since the beginning of the year.

Catherine Mathis, a Times Co. spokeswoman, declined to comment whether the company would extend the deadline.

"At this point, all we can say is that the negotiations continue," Mathis said in an e-mail.

If it did plan to shut down the newspaper, the Times Co. would be required under a federal plant closing law to give 60 days' notice to the state and to employees. No such notice has been filed, Alison Harris, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, said yesterday.

By late yesterday afternoon, it was still unclear what would happen.

Several reporters said they had not been told whether the Times Co. had agreed to an extension. Dan Totten, president of the Guild, did not return calls seeking comment.

A human resources official at the Globe sent an e-mail yesterday telling employees to "maintain your normal work schedule and activities."

"We will let you know of any changes and appreciate your understanding during this uncertain time," Chris Hall, vice president of human resources, said in the e-mail.

The concessions sought by the Times Co. could include pay cuts, a reduction in pension contributions and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees for some senior employees. Those guarantees state that the staffers cannot be let go without cause.

The Globe, like many newspapers, is struggling with declines in circulation and advertising. The Globe's operations lost US$50 million last year and are projected to lose $85 million this year.


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