The Boston Globe's problems are far from over

The New York Times Co. (NYT) may finally be ending the long-running soap opera around the The Boston Globe.

Under a tentative agreement between the publisher and the Boston Globe's largest union, reporters and editors will face significant cuts in wages, benefits and job security, according to a report in theThe New York Times. The deal is awful, including an 8 percent salary reduction, elimination of lifetime job guarantees for some employees and a five-day furlough, but it was better than a proposed alternative that called for a 23 percent salary reduction.

Earlier this month, the Times threatened to implement the draconian pay cuts after the 670 members of the Boston Newspaper Guild narrowly rejected the company's earlier $10 million wage concession proposal. The move seemed like economic suicide because the company argued it needed to find $20 million in savings. The Globe has weighed-down The New York Times' earnings for years. Officials estimate that the Globe, New England's largest paper, will lose $85 million this year though that figure has been disputed.

But the approval of the contract looks like a certainty.

"Several factors suggest the chances of passage for the new agreement are good this time: the union's embrace of the new plan, the smaller pay cut in it, the narrow margin in the earlier vote, and the pain of the 23 percent pay cut," according to the Times.

Though the Guild members are making the best of a bad situation, they can't rest easy. More pain will come to employees if the Times sells the Globe, including more layoffs. Experts argue that the publisher will get far less than the $1.1 billion it paid for the Globe and associated properties. Private owners are not going to tolerate owning a property that loses money regardless of whether the Globe is their hometown paper or not.

As a journalist, I am sympathetic to the plight of the Globe's editorial staff. They are caught in a damned-if-you -do, damned-if-you-don't situation of being forced to take awful pay cuts instead of horrendous ones.

But at least they have jobs at a time when many people don't.

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