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Guild union workers OK new Sun contract

The Baltimore Sun

Unionized employees in The Sun's newsroom, advertising and other departments overwhelmingly approved a new four-year contract last night, averting the possibility of a strike at a time the paper is coping with declining revenue and increased competition.

Representatives from management and the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild struck a tentative agreement early yesterday on a contract covering about 480 employees. The deal was contingent on union members ratifying it last night. They did so on a voice vote.

The contract calls for a $10 weekly base-pay increase plus performance-based raises each year and removes a prohibition on reporters being required to carry still and video cameras on assignments. Management portrayed that change, which some Sun photographers protested through a byline strike earlier in the week, as necessary to The Sun's ability to be competitive in a multimedia environment.

The current contract expires June 24.

"Obviously I'm pleased we have a new contract. I wish it could be a better one, but under the circumstances in the newspaper industry, it was a deal that members understandably accepted," said Michael Hill, a Sun reporter and unit chair for the guild.

Hill and Linda Yurche, a Sun spokeswoman, said both sides negotiated with a much calmer tone than in past years. "I think that's why we were able to get an early agreement," Yurche said.

The Sun's corporate parent, Tribune Co., has begun the process of going private through an $8.2 billion buyout by Chicago billionaire Sam Zell. The Sun eliminated 16 jobs in the newsroom this month, all through voluntary buyouts, and 45 companywide to cut costs.

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