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Thursday brought troubling news to the unionized employees of the Sun-Times Media Group. The morning Tribune reported:
"Less than a day after an investment group led by Chicago financier Jim Tyree agreed to spend more than $25 million to rescue the cash-starved parent of the Chicago Sun-Times, employees began to learn the steep sacrifices they will have to endure to make the deal work.
"Letters went out to union leaders officially calling for cuts in compensation, elimination of some work rules and the likely loss of pension benefits, said Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich."
But it wasn't from these letters that employees began learning of the steep sacrifices that lie ahead; it was from the Tribune article.
At mid-afternoon, the letters had yet to arrive. And tardiness was making an unpleasant matter that much more unpleasant.
"We've had off-the-record chats about our concerns, but we've been told 'We'll put something formally on the record and we'll talk about it then,'" the Chicago Newspaper Guild's executive director, Thomas Thibeault, told me at three in the afternoon. He said he got a call Thursday morning from Ted Rilea, the media group's vice president of labor relations, saying a messenger would be dropping off the letters — a package of concessions the unions are being told they must make if the sale of the media group's assets to an investment group led by financier Jim Tyree is to take place.
"Nothing has arrived," Thibeault said. "They keep telling me time is of the essence, and they’ve wasted three days."
Tyree's bid was announced Tuesday. "We’re supposed to do this in 20 days and we’re down to day 18," said Thibeault, who pointed out that the guild represents five bargaining units — Sun-Times editorial, Pioneer Press editorial and production, the Lake County News-Sun editorial, and the (Joliet) Herald News editorial. Negotiations must be followed by meetings of all of these units. "I don't know how the hell we're going to do it," said Thibeault." I don't know what their game plan is or if they're totally confused. They've gotten off to a pretty bad start with us."
I called back at 3:40. Nothing had arrived.
"They told me 15 minutes," said Thibeault.
"About a half hour ago."