A major concession by the management of the Times and Sunday Times has revived hope that the venerable London newspapers will resume publication this summer.
The Times management suspended publication seven months ago in a dispute with unions over the introduction of new technology, a dispute that has cost the Times an estimated $40 million in lost revenue and payroll expenses.
At an unprecedented meeting last Friday, attended by Lord Thomson, chairman of the Canada-based conglomerate that owns the Times, and leaders of the largest printing union, the management agreed to drop its key condition that printers accept the sharing of control of the new computerized equipment with journalists in the newsroom.
Thomson and the leaders of the National Graphical Association agreed, instead, that publication of the daily and Sunday Times and their supplements could resume as soon as possible while negotiations over the introduction of new printing methods continue, perhaps for as long as a year.
Following that breakthrough agreement, the Times management met today with representatives of the more than 50 branches of other unions at the Times to seek agreements that still must be reached before publication can resume. Management is still seeking more control over manning and a guarantee against wildcat strikes and stoppages.
Although neither side would discuss many details of today's talks, the paper's management did offer to reinstate all of the 3,000 employees who were dismissed while the papers were not being published.
"There were no ultimatums and no dates mentioned, about when publication could be resumed," Sir Denis Hamilton, editor-in-chief of the Times newspaper, told reporters. "But if the papers could be got back in July or August, that would be tremendous."
"The only thing I can see holding things up is a misunderstanding and we have had them before," said Barry Fitzpatrick, chairman of the unions' joint negotiating committee.
"But we are now talking the same language. Certainly, we are optimistic, both sides are."