Buffalo News Guild Employees Consider Offer to Buy Out 23
Guild-represented employees of the Buffalo News are mulling a buyout offer that would have them exit their jobs by the end of this month, as the newspaper best known for being owned by Warren Buffet seeks to reduce head-count by 23, the Newsper Guild Communications Workers of America said on its website yesterday.
The Buffalo Guild negotiated terms of the package over several weeks, improving pension benefits enough that the union hopes will make layoffs unnecessary. Company management said it wants to cut $5.7 million in expenses because of declining profitability.
Employees have until April 26 to seek a buyout, with management looking to cut nine district managers, eight newsroom employees, three in classifieds, two in accounting and one in inside circulation by April 30. Newsroom employees who take the buyout may be offered part-time non-permanent work, and if at least nine district managers take the buyout, the company may offer them an opportunity to return as permanent part-timers.
Guild representatives, noting that the News was not under a contractual obligation to bargain over the buyout terms, said they appreciated the opportunity to negotiate. “While we would prefer if the company was not seeking to cut jobs, I’ve got to give management credit for listening to the Guild’s suggestions on how to structure an attractive package,” said Jim Heaney, who headed up the union team. “This is the most-attractive buyout offer The News has offered in a long time and substantially better than what management originally had in mind. For employees who have been waiting for a better offer, it has arrived.”
Chief among those improvements: Employees with at least five years of experience are eligible to add 10 years of pension credits toward their age and/or years of service. The maximum years of credited service will increase from 30 to 45 years, and employees who already have more than 30 years of service credits will be able to apply those extra years toward their pension calculations. The $40,000 cap on annual benefits remains.
Meanwhile, if the pension buyout offer does not solicit enough interest, the company will offer a second buyout of cash equal to 18 months of base pay and, where applicable, merit pay. That offer would be extended from April 26 to May 10. Seniority will be the determining factor if applicants outnumber openings.
To help members sort out their options, the Guild has retained a financial consulting and retirement planning firm headed by Richard Schroeder, a former Guild president who manages the union’s investments.