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Advertiser unions OK 2-year pay cut of 10%


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POSTED: Monday, February 09, 2009

Union employees with the Honolulu Advertiser ratified a new two-year contract yesterday that includes a pay cut of 10 percent to help the company weather the economic downturn.

By a vote of 248-40, members of the six unions representing employees of the state's largest daily newspaper accepted the agreement, which takes effect today and expires Dec. 31, 2010, according to the Hawaii Newspaper Guild.

“;When (employees) looked at the economy and the industry in general, they believed that it was necessary to take this deal to keep this newspaper in operation,”; said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild. “;They're really dedicated to the newspaper and the industry and wanted to see it continue.”;

In an e-mailed statement, Advertiser President and Publisher Lee Webber thanked the union employees for their “;show of support”; in ratifying the agreement.

“;As mentioned earlier, this economic situation is very real for all of use here at the Honolulu Advertiser, but together we can and will survive this economic challenge that grips our industry, nation and world,”; he said.

According to the new contract, employees could have their pay restored if, during a biannual review of the company's books, the union finds the paper is making enough over its margins to pay for it.

Employees also get three weeks added onto the three-week notice for layoffs.

The unions and the paper reached the agreement after bargaining to replace a contract that expired in June 2007.

Since negotiations began, the paper has cut about 150 positions. Because of the slimmer staff, the contract requires reporters to take photos and shoot video and photographers to write stories.

“;We all knew that it was going to happen,”; said Guild President Suzanne Roig. “;Sort of inevitable when we're so short-staffed. Our concern is doing quality journalism in the same time frame, but in having to do more.

“;I believe that most of the members are happy to put this behind them and get on with the business of working and doing what we do best,”; she said.

Gannett Co., the paper's parent company, has been losing money as its stock dropped from more than $33 a share last February to below $5 on Friday.

In November the Advertiser proposed pay cuts of up to 31.5 percent.

If the employees voted down this proposal, the company could have declared a deadlock and imposed its own conditions or possibly shut down the paper.

“;Better to have a job than no job,”; said Don Kauleinamoku, a truck driver with the paper for 34 years who voted for the contract. “;We got to give a little to survive.”;