NEW YORK, SEPT. 17 -- The New York Post, the scrappy tabloid that is the oldest continuously published daily in the nation, won a new lease on life tonight when its Newspaper Guild employees voted 242 to 45 to swallow a 20 percent pay cut and lose up to 43 Guild-covered jobs.
Post owner Peter S. Kalikow, who estimates he is losing $27 million a year on the paper, had threatened that if Guild members rejected his offer, he would immediately shut down the 189-year-old tabloid, which is famous for its racy headlines, conservative editorial page and working-class appeal.
Members of the Guild, which represents 352 reporters, editors, photographers and advertising and clerical employees, voted to accept a four-day workweek at four days' pay. Kalikow has tentatively offered union employees 20 percent ownership of the company and a representative seat on the board of directors, but that proposal is subject to further negotiation.
Ten other unions representing 500 employees agreed late Friday night to $19 million in concessions and more than 100 job cuts. Guild negotiators rejected Kalikow's offer, but Guild President Barry Lipton endorsed it and decided to have his membership vote, saying, "It's going to be a hardship . . . . But a 'no' vote means 900 people lose their jobs."
Some of the Guild members have not had a pay raise in three years and work at a minimum salary lower than that offered by many other papers. Some were embittered at having to make further concessions.
"This is horrible. It's less than subsistence level," reporter Esther Pessin said as she left the two-hour meeting. But she said she voted for the deal because "I didn't feel it was my right to decide everyone's destiny."
"We accepted a 20 percent pay cut and Mr. Kalikow gets to keep his yacht and the longest dock in Long Island," reporter Peter Moses said. Several employees leaving the meeting mumbled that they would leave the paper rather than stay under the new conditions. The agreement included an option for departures with full severance pay if employees notify the paper by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Repercussions of the Post staffers' do-or-die decision will be felt throughout the New York newspaper market, where four dailies -- more than in any other U.S. city -- compete in an ever-tightening economy.
The Daily News has been locked in bitter negotiations with its unions since January. Management at the New York Times and the News informed the Guild last week that they would attempt to invoke a so-called "me too" clause to match concessions that union members grant the Post.
The Post, founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton, has weathered a series of owners who took the paper through both liberal and conservative phases. Rupert Murdoch, who turned it into a steamy supermarket-style tabloid, sold it to Kalikow, a real-estate developer, in 1988 for $37 million.