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Originally published Tuesday, December 4, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Times wants to transfer trucking operations

The Seattle Times Co. says it plans to outsource its trucking operations and vehicle maintenance early next year, a move that could eliminate...

Seattle Times business reporter

The Seattle Times Co. says it plans to outsource its trucking operations and vehicle maintenance early next year, a move that could eliminate up to 80 company jobs.

In a memo to supervisors Monday, Vice President Alan Fisco said The Times signed a preliminary letter of intent last week to transfer those functions to Penske Logistics, a global transportation-services company.

Most of the 80 affected employees are represented by Teamsters Local 174. Rick Hicks, the local's secretary-treasurer, said the Times' tentative agreement with Penske "means nothing," and suggested it could be a contract-bargaining ploy.

"I'm not of the opinion that it's a done deal," he said.

The Times' contract with the union expires Feb. 28. Fisco's memo said Penske would take over Feb. 29.

The Times' truck fleet is aging, Fisco wrote, and replacing it would cost $3 million. Other newspapers have saved money by outsourcing their trucking operations, he added.

"We will do our best to create as many opportunities as possible for the affected employees," Fisco wrote, "including an agreement from Penske that they will offer a majority of their openings to qualified Times garage employees, drivers and managers."

Times spokeswoman Jill Mackie said Monday that she did not know how many people Penske would hire. But she said The Times chose Penske, in part, because it has operated successfully with a union work force elsewhere.

The Times also prints and distributes the smaller Seattle Post-Intelligencer under a 24-year-old joint operating agreement (JOA). The two newspapers maintain separate newsrooms.

Hicks, the Teamsters official, said the local plans to meet with The Times soon to discuss the outsourcing move, but that meeting hasn't been scheduled. Leaders of all unions representing Times employees also plan to meet soon to discuss the development, he added.

"Our members are concerned," Hicks said.

The Times, like most other metropolitan dailies, has suffered from declining advertising revenues in recent years, and has made a number of moves to cut costs. In 2005 it outsourced its customer-service operation to Wisconsin, eliminating 45 jobs.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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