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Buffalo News Guild Employees Consider Offer to Buy Out 23

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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.

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April 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

St. Louis Newspaper Guild Accepts Contract That Includes a Pay Cut

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[CORRECTION, March 30 at 2:40 p.m. Eastern: Brian Flinchpaugh writes for the Globe-Democrat. The original version of this post had incorrectly stated that he wrote for the Post-Dispatch.]

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild accepted Saturday a 5 1/2-year contract with management at the Post-Dispatch.

The agreement with Lee Enterprises will cut employees’ pay by six percent immediately, but there are provisions that would restore some of the cuts down the road if profits increase. The vote was 132-54.

Brian Flinchpaugh of the Globe-Democratwrites:

“People want the Post to succeed and they want Lee to succeed and they want to keep the Post strong,” said Jeff Gordon, president of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild and a sports columnist at the Post. “That’s the hope.”

Gordon said guild members realized if they fought Lee, they could have damaged the Post-Dispatch. One guild strategy if the contract was rejected was to mount a $500,000 public relations campaign against Lee.

The campaign would ask the public to suspend their subscriptions to the Post. More help may come from the national Communications Workers of America.

That could have lead to more layoffs and make an already bad situation worse, he said.

Gordon said guild leaders and some members worried whether they would get anything more if they rejected the contract. Other labor negotiations at newspapers in Minneapolis, Chicago and other major cities are following a similar pattern.

The guild represents reporters, photographers, editors, advertising personnel and other employees

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March 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

New York Times Guild Upheld on Seniority Rights in Ruling on Newsroom Layoffs

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An arbitrator on Monday upheld Times’ newsroom employees’ seniority rights, added an annual week of severance pay for employees properly laid off in inverse order of seniority, and sped up the challenge process for those laid off out of seniority in a ruling that resolved in the Guild’s favor most aspects of a multi-faceted dispute over job security, according to a press release posted by Jim Romenesko tonight:

The binding decision by Arbitrator Martin Scheinman, issued a day before Times management targets approximately 26 Newsroom employees for layoff, provides fresh clarity to a process that had been clouded by disputes since last year’s Newsroom layoffs.

After accepting the buyout applications of 74 News-side employees (60 Guild and 14 non-Guild) last week, Times management is expected on Tuesday to target additional Newsroom employees for involuntary layoffs to reach its goal of 100 job cuts. The numbers might change if people change their minds and revoke their buyout application.

The arbitrator’s ruling sustained the Guild’s view that seniority used to determine Newsroom employees’ vulnerability to layoffs must be measured by their service in the entire News Department. In last year’s round of job cuts, management had taken the position that seniority gets reset to zero each time an employee moves to a new desk.

Under the ruling, employees laid off in inverse order of seniority will receive three weeks per year of severance pay, instead of two weeks, the same rate as employees who are involuntarily laid off out of order, and will have to sign a release, as they currently do. Employees with the least amount of seniority are generally most vulnerable to layoffs, but management can pass over more senior employees if it determines that a less senior employee’s qualifications are “superior.”

Employees laid off out of seniority order who do not challenge their dismissals may receive their severance payments in a lump sum or in monthly installments, in exchange for signing a separation agreement and general release, Scheinman ruled.

Those who challenge their out-of-seniority layoffs will have their cases decided by Scheinman within 30 days of the Guild’s demand for a hearing, during which time they will receive no severance pay. If they prevail, they will be reinstated. If not, they may receive their severance pay only in monthly installments, in exchange for signing a separation agreement and general release.

The issue of whether the release negated rehire rights had been in dispute, and has now been resolved by the arbitrator in the following manner.

If The Times hires more than two employees in a classification from which Newsroom employees were laid off within the past 12 months, the Guild may challenge the layoff “as having been not in good faith, not bona fide, or a subterfuge,” Scheinman said.

“In the arbitration, the Guild would have to demonstrate hiring individuals rather than rehiring employees involuntarily terminated within the preceding 12 months was unreasonable,” he said. “The Times would have the responsibility to explain why it did not instead rehire employees involuntarily terminated within the preceding 12 months.”

If the Guild prevails in such a challenge, Scheinman said The Times would have to offer to rehire involuntarily a laid-off employee, even if they signed a general release.

“We are pleased that the arbitrator has upheld the most important aspects of our position,” said New York Guild president Bill O’Meara. “We also now have clarity on how layoffs are to be conducted and will have a swifter way of resolving future layoff disputes, which is of great benefit to Guild members,” he added.

Guild offers plan to avert loss of News Service jobs Responding to a management proposal to subcontract the News Service, the Guild last week offered a comprehensive package of cost savings aimed at keeping the operation and its 28 Guild-represented jobs in New York. Talks are continuing.

As reported, Times management notified the Guild a few weeks ago that it intends to subcontract the News Service to a Times Company-owned entity in Gainesville, Florida.

Workers there would be hired at about half the current rate of pay in effect here. That notification triggered a 60-day period during which the Guild can attempt to convince management not to go forward with its plans. The Guild proposal would cut costs by about 31 percent, saving the company nearly $900,000 a year.

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December 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Guild: Philadelphia Newspapers Using Bargaining as an Assault on Guild Members

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The Bargaining Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia Local 10 issued a memo to all Guild members last week saying that management has turned the bargaining process into an assault on Guild members and their work ethic.

The memo was published this morning on Romenesko. Here is the text:

From: Guild Bulletin
Sent: Wed 10/14/2009 4:07 PM
Subject: Philadelphia Newspapers Insults Guild Members, Stalls Productive Bargaining in Apparent Attempt to Sabotage the Enterprise.

Dear Guild member,

Philadelphia Newspapers today turned a contract bargaining session into an assault on the Guild’s members and our work ethic. The lack of substantive bargaining on the company’s part suggests that it might be trying to sabotage its own bankruptcy reorganization plan and the entire enterprise in recognition that it may not prevail.

In what should be considered demeaning to every member of the Guild, the company’s high-priced out-of-town lawyer said that an online enterprise such as Philly.com has a different work ethic than what is commonly found at major metropolitan newspapers such as those that we have devoted our lives to. Another company official referred to our contract as a “burdensome industrial model.”

We also heard the company say our advertising reps’ performance goals and disciplinary programs are not strong enough to compete with other media operations.

The battery of unspeakable insults, a thinly veiled attempt to stall productive talks, came during discussion of the Guild’s proposal to make Philly.com a part of our bargaining unit.

The company’s failure to submit economic proposals to accompany proposals that already seek to destroy our contract is the opposite of constructive, good-faith bargaining. It appears increasingly clear that the company has no intention of actually reaching a contract with our Guild thus jeopardizing its own survival plan. The company’s own bankruptcy plan calls for having contracts acceptable to its Stalking Horse bidder (made up of company insiders Bruce Toll and the Carpenters Union Pension Fund, and philanthropist David Haas) before that group puts up any money.

While the company pursues bargaining proposals that strip our contract of seniority, claiming it is necessary to achieve an economic advantage in an increasingly competitive market, it continues to throw money at a costly and time consuming legal battle in the courts. This approach keeps draining assets from the estate, possibly in efforts to do further harm to the operation to spite the senior lenders in the event they take control.

The Guild and Philadelphia Newspapers have not set our next bargaining date.

In solidarity,

The Bargaining Committee of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia Local 10

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October 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm

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