By Jennifer Saba
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp <TRI.N> <TRI.TO> reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with the New York Newspaper Guild on Friday, paving the way to end a more than two-year-long battle over health benefits and wages.
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The preliminary agreement is for a three-year contract that includes a $7.6 million cash settlement for the union, a guaranteed 1.5 percent annual wage increase, a limit on health care costs and a new social media policy.
The deal was negotiated under a new management team led by Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler, who took over the top job at Reuters News in February.
Management's main negotiator was former Wall Street Journal general counsel Stuart Karle, who was appointed chief operating officer at Reuters News earlier this month.
The deal was struck after a 21-hour bargaining session that ended on Friday morning, hours before the National Labor Relations Board was set to issue a complaint against Thomson Reuters over issues including pay and free speech on social networking sites such as Twitter.
Both sides have asked the labor board for a delay in filing the complaint. The union said it will ask the labor board to drop all charges if the new contract is ratified.
"A lot of the credit for this settlement being able to be reached in relatively short order has to go to the new editorial management team," New York Newspaper Guild President Bill O'Meara said.
"We are very optimistic that we can have an improved relationship with Thomson Reuters going forward. This settlement I think will help set the stage for that."
The more than 400 U.S. Thomson Reuters editorial staff who belong to the Newspaper Guild have worked without a contract since early 2009. The company employs about 2,900 journalists among its global workforce of 55,000.
The preliminary deal comes as news organizations face unprecedented economic challenges, with steep drops in advertising revenue and people turning to the Web for news.
"I am here to try to focus on journalistic excellence, and the people who do journalism in the U.S. are in the Guild and I think that we should all be able to move past this and focus on doing great work," Adler said in an interview.
On Thursday, Thomson Reuters reported that its first-quarter revenue rose 5 percent to $3.2 billion. Revenue at the company's media businesses, which includes Reuters News, rose 1 percent to $82 million.
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba; Editing by Ted Kerr)