The Daily News, the Inquirer and Philly.com could end up back on the auction block if their prospective new owners can't reach an agreement with Teamsters Local 628 by noon today.
Local 628, which represents the drivers who deliver the newspapers, is the only one of 15 unions that has not settled its contract with Philadelphia Media Network Inc., the company that purchased the papers and website at auction in April for $105 million in cash.
Chief Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Raslavich set today as the deadline to close the deal.
Greg Osberg, Philadelphia Media Network's chief executive officer, said that the company would not close without contracts with all the unions.
That means that Raslavich could offer a deadline extension or reopen bidding on the properties to clear the debts of their parent company, Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, the ownership group led by Chief Executive Officer Brian Tierney.
Osberg vowed that his company would be the winning bidder even if there were another auction, but he said that the Teamsters' actions - on Sunday rejecting a contract for a second time with Philadelphia Media Network - "put the company at risk."
During a news conference yesterday, Osberg urged the union to re-evaluate the company's offer.
"The time for negotiation is over. . . . The right thing to do now is to ensure that 2,345 employees of the Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com keep their jobs," Osberg said.
Osberg noted that the 14 unions that reached agreements with Philadelphia Media Network represented 80 percent of union employees.
The concessions that these unions agreed upon represented $20 million of the $23 million labor savings the company had sought.
Reached last night, John Laigaie, president of Teamsters Local 628, said that no one from Philadelphia Media Network had contacted him since Sunday, and that Osberg's news conference caught him by surprise.
Laigaie said that his members seemed most unhappy about proposed changes to their pension plan.
Osberg said that the company's offer - a jointly administered, defined contribution plan or a 3 percent match of individual 401(k) contributions - "will provide the drivers with the same or better monthly benefits upon their retirement," but Laigaie said that that's not the case.
"He's not expressing the truth 100 percent," Laigaie said. "The pension plan as we have it now is much more superior to the one they want to offer us."