Union review: Seattle Times revenues still sliding

The Seattle Times’ advertising revenue continues to decline:  It fell 10 percent between the first quarters of 2009 and 2010, according to a union review. Teamster Researcher Doug Henderson, who reviews the Times’ finances two times a year, found that the company’s cost-saving measures — including concessions agreed to by its union employees in 2009 — are helping.  A new five-year agreement that the company reached in January to refinance the newspaper’s debt also is improving the financial picture.  Total operating expenses were down 11 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009, but overall the Times’ bottom line ranges from break-even to net loss.

Henderson is allowed access to financial records under concession agreements negotiated in 2009 between Times management and workers who belong to the Newspaper Guild-CWA, Teamsters Local 7 63, Teamsters Local 767M and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 46.

Times management and union representatives also held a quarterly meeting of the Industry Awareness Council, which was formed during the concession negotiations.

Alayne Fardella, the company’s senior vice-president for business operations, said stabilizing the newspaper will be difficult until the volatility of advertising revenue settles down, the economy starts a consistent recovery and the company’s debt is paid off.

Over the next year, the Times will renegotiate 11 of its labor agreements. Fardella said the company’s proposals will focus on keeping expenses down and improving the company’s “competitive positioning” in the market.

“We are looking at an entirely new landscape and resetting expectations,” she said.

The meeting was attended by Darryl Sclater, Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild-CWA president; Liz Brown, Teamsters Local 763 business agent, and Brian Earl, Teamsters Local 767M president.

Posted on July 12, 2010 .