New York's daily papers face strike by week's end

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

America's largest city appears headed for another newspaper strike. The citywide bargaining unit for the Newspaper guild of New York, a member of AFL-CIO, voted over the weekend to go on strike against one or more of the city's three major dailies at 12:01 a.m. April 24, if no agreement is reached by then. The guild's contracts with the papers expired March 30.

At the core of the dispute are job classifications and the guild's desire to "regain some of the severe cuts we took in 1978," says Joy Cook, the union's unit chairman at the New York Post.

She forecasts a drawn-out strike because the publishers of the New York Times , the Daily News, and the Post "have not made any real signs that they are looking for a way to avoid trouble."

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Speaking for the New York Publishers Association, Joseph Barletta told the Monitor, "I think [a strike] is unavoidable. The guild seems to be acting . . . excessively in what they hope to achieve in a contract."

And, in fact, no negotiations between the publishers association and the guild have been scheduled before the strike deadline.

The last strike against New York's major newspapers occurred in the summer of 1978. It lasted 88 days against the Times and the News, but less than two months against the Post, which broke away from the publishers association and negotiated a separate contract with the unions.

Exactly what affect this split, under which the Post is once again negotiating on its own, will have on current talks is unclear. But, in effect, the guild now sees itself bargaining with two parties: the Post, on the one hand , and the association, representing the News and Times, on the other. The guild has made it clear the threatened strike will be aimed against the one that shows the least progress in bargaining.

If there is unanticipated momentum this week toward a settlement, the strike deadline would be postponed. But there are 10 other unions also negotiating either completely new contracts with the papers or what is called "wage-reopeners" -- under which only the wage portion of a contract is renegotiated.

"In some form or another, all the contracts are open for negotiation this year," says Pat Smith, chief spokesman for the guild. "The drivers and pressmen have reached a 'wage package' settlement [with the publishers], but other issues , such as job security, have not been settled."

Wages have not even been discussed yet, says Mr. Smith, adding that "a money package would be fairly easy to come by" once t he other elements are worked out.

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