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Philly newspapers reach tentative pact

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PHILADELPHIA (AFX) - The largest union at Philadelphia's two biggest newspapers has reached a tentative agreement with management on noneconomic contract issues after a second day of marathon negotiations, union officials said early Monday.

One of the key noneconomic issues for the Guild was protecting seniority in the event of layoffs, and the agreement, pending approval of union members, meets that goal.

"Seniority has been preserved," said Stu Bykofsky, spokesman for The Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia. "That was a huge obstacle."

Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC also wants to freeze pensions and lay off as many as 150 newsroom employees -- more than one-third of the staff.

Henry Holcomb, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, cautioned that critical economic issues remain unresolved.

The Guild, which represents more than 900 editorial, advertising, circulation and clerical workers at the two papers, had threatened to strike when its contract expired last week, but backed off as negotiations progressed.

Philadelphia Media Holdings spokesman Jay Devine said Monday the company was pleased that the seniority issue was settled. The company, which bought the former longtime Knight Ridder newspapers in June from McClatchy Co., has said that drastic measures are necessary because of falling ad revenue and circulation.

Devine said that the company had scheduled talks Monday and Tuesday with other union locals, including mailers who prepare the papers for delivery. If those discussions wrap up early, talks with the Guild set for Wednesday could be bumped up, Devine said.

Holcomb said the Guild was eager to continue.

"The ball's in their court," Holcomb said.

The last strike at the newspapers, in 1985, lasted 46 days. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be

Copyright 2006 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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