The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Inquirer LLC reached a tentative three-year contract agreement with raises and a workforce diversity provision, the union and company said Thursday.
The 338 union members began voting on the tentative contract on Thursday and are expected to continue voting through 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
The tentative contract contains a onetime lump-sum payment equivalent to 2.5% of a union member’s salary in the contract’s first year, plus a $500 signing bonus.
In the second year, the company would raise pay for Guild members by 3%. The third year would include a 2% raise.
Although many individual Guild members have received raises in recent years, the new contract would include the first across-the-board raises since August 2009 for newsroom reporters, photographers, digital producers, audience engagement, and other editorial staffers, in addition to finance, advertising, and circulation employees.
With news breaking about the coronavirus, the company and the union concluded talks more than two weeks before the current contract expires on March 31. The two sides negotiated for five months. The company is owned by the nonprofit Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
“I said it would be a win for all of us for this [no-pay-raise] narrative to change," said Diane Mastrull, the guild president and lead negotiator. “We have so many important things to do here for them to be overshadowed by something like no raises.
“By no means is anyone getting rich from this contract, but we could not have employees worried about whether they would be able to pay their bills year to year,” she added.
Inquirer publisher Elizabeth H. Hughes spoke with negotiators on Thursday and told them that, given the coronavirus and the potential impact on the economy, they had to finalize a deal, Mastrull said.
Hughes, a former magazine executive who took her position in Philadelphia in early February, declined to comment on specifics before union members voted on the contract. She noted that the process was far advanced when she arrived.
Hughes added, “I am happy with where we are.”
Hughes said that "our industry is certainly not immune to what’s going on in the world. We are in a bear market, and I think everyone is aware of that. With a tentative agreement, we are focused on what’s important, serving the community with journalism that matters.”
The tentative contract continues its health benefits and “includes extensive language committing the company to the recruitment, employment, promotion, training and career development of a diverse workforce,” the union said in an email announcing the tentative contract.