Dow Jones, WSJ Union OK Tentative Deal

Business Materials 17 September 2007 06:34 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) -- Dow Jones & Co. has reached a tentative deal on a new contract with the union representing reporters at The Wall Street Journal, ending several months of sometimes contentious talks.

The board of the union, the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, agreed Saturday to send the contract deal to its membership and recommend that they ratify it, Tom Lauricella, a Journal reporter who is vice president of the union, said Sunday.

The union had been at odds with Dow Jones management over several issues including pay and health care costs. The union posted a document on its Web site late Sunday saying the new contract offer included annual wage increases of 3 percent through 2009, compensation for jobs lost to outsourcing, and health care changes including new caps on out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Dow Jones spokeswoman Linda Dunbar declined to comment.

Last week, several dozen Wall Street Journal reporters picketed in front of the newspaper's headquarters building in lower Manhattan, carrying placards with slogans including "Give us a fair deal." The union had been working without a contract since January.

The tentative contract agreement comes six weeks after Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media conglomerate agreed to buy Dow Jones for $5 billion. The union was strongly opposed to the deal, saying the Journal's quality and independence would suffer under Murdoch. Murdoch says those concerns aren't justified.

Murdoch has said he intends to build up the Journal's news coverage, particularly in Washington, and he said in a conference call last month to discuss News Corp.'s earnings that there weren't any plans to cut jobs at the Journal. "We're going to be in a hiring mode almost immediately," he said at the time.

However, Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino prepared employees for the possibility of job cuts in a letter to employees last week, saying: "Where job cuts are unavoidable, we will communicate that as soon as practical" and provide any affected employees with the appropriate severance and benefits.

Signs depicting Murdoch have been appearing in the Wall Street Journal's newsroom with the headline, "Show us the money."

Steve Yount, the president of the union, sent the group's members a note urging them to endorse the deal, but he also acknowledged that the contract fell short of what the union had been hoping for.

"Obviously, this contract is not everything that we wanted," Yount said in the note. "But the (union's board) also believes -- at this time, under these conditions -- this is the best package available."