Union members accept news Plain Dealer contract, layoffs non-negotiable

CLEVELAND - Plain Dealer union members approved a six-year contract extension on Tuesday, but that will not stop plans to lay off 58 employees.

The Local 1 Newspaper Guild accepted a new contract with Advance Publications that includes money for health care benefits and pensions.

Just last week, the guild said the Plain Dealer plans to cut 58 positions from the newsroom staff next year, which is about one-third of the guild's members. On Tuesday, the guild said those layoffs were not up for negotiation and that number could have been higher, without the agreement.

"It's a bittersweet day for most of us," said Rachel Dissell of the Newspaper Guild. "Many of the members were very grateful that they were given choices and options of having health care if they left and the members that do not get laid off they'll have somewhat of a job guarantee going forward until that contract ends in 2019," she said.

"The passage of this agreement is without a doubt a defining moment in the 78 years Local 1 of The Newspaper Guild has represented Cleveland journalists," the guild said in a statement released after the vote. "The agreement allows the company over time to supplant journalism produced by Guild professionals with cheaper content from other entities. But it was necessary to provide our members the best financial package we could, given difficult circumstances at The Plain Dealer. The agreement gives our members options to make decisions for their families and about their own futures. It also prevents more jobs from being cut."

In November, employees launched a "Save the Plain Dealer" campaign over concerns that Cleveland's only daily newspaper would cut back to just three days a week.

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