The Indy News Guild filed a grievance with the company Dec. 12 over the Dec. 3 layoffs of 14 employees represented by the Guild. Our position is that the company, by its own admission — and not including the four workers who volunteered to be laid off – disregarded the seniority provisions of the contract, just as it did in August during the prior round of layoffs.
The company, as expected, denied our grievance. Led by our advisers from the Communications Workers of America/The Newspaper Guild, we are in the process of setting an arbitration date.
The Guild is not demanding that the Star follow a strict, across-the-board “last-hired, first-fired” policy, but demanding it follow the intent of the contract – deferring to seniority. What they did in December was use a random, hodgepodge approach – targeting experienced reporters and copy editors working on the features section, the zones copy desk and for the North Zone, then reassigning others to do that work, while retaining less experienced reporters and copy editors doing the same work on other sections as the senior employees who were laid off. That’s no security for anyone given the financial challenges facing Gannett.
We feel that the newsroom will again be hit by layoffs in 2009, but that’s just a guess. The Guild promises to carry on the good fight. As for those who were laid off, we’ve tried to keep in contact via e-mail and reached out with Kroger gift certificates. Let us know of any needs; there are many, and many of us want to step in when things get rough, so don’t hesitate to ask. We have strength in numbers and a great communication system. We promise to stay in touch.
Thursday, December 18, guild officers met with management to discuss outstanding grievances. One grievance that had been filed early this year was for a newsroom employee classified as a paraprofessional who was writing stories, just as a reporter would, but receiving paraprofessional pay. The company wouldn’t promote this person to reporter, but in October agreed to pay a negotiated $8 differential for past stories he had written. The company also agreed to pay all paraprofessionals $8 per by-lined story for all future stories.
With this agreement, the Guild had dropped the grievance. But, since then, paraprofessionals haven’t been getting their extra $8 per by-lined story. Another problem is the company now says by-lined Q&As are “content”, not by-lined stories. The Guild has refilled its grievance and is seeking pay for paraprofessionals doing work above their job classification.
The Guild and Star management have been in back-and-forth discussion to develop a cell-phone policy to resolve a grievance we filed so staffers – primarily reporters – are provided with the tools to do their jobs. Some of you have been supplied company cell phones – a practice the Star is doing away with in exchange for providing a subsidy. The company intends to increase the number of staffers who receive a subsidy, but that will mean reduced amounts for those who already receive them. We are requesting the financials before any plan is agreed to so we can update our members on the overall impact.
During the December 18 meeting, the Guild also brought to management’s attention a problem with the scheduling for a Guild member. This full-time employee, who works a five-day, 40-hour schedule in the newsroom, had been scheduled by his manager to work 40 hours over six days. The reason given was another employee was on vacation and the manager needed this person to work six days. In addition, the schedule hadn’t been posted until three days before the start of the work week.
We immediately contacted editor Dennis Ryerson. Management resolved the situation without the Guild having to file a grievance. They conceded that the contract calls for full-time employees to be scheduled to work 40 hours either with 5-day, 8-hour schedules or 4-day, 10-hour schedules. If an employee is needed to work on an additional day, overtime is paid. The contract does not allow the company to schedule your 40 hours over six days with no overtime because it is shorthanded.
While our contract has no provisions for the timely posting of work schedules, it does address other aspects of scheduling. It states “Days off shall be regular and consecutive, subject to change on two weeks’ notice or by mutual consent.” This means if your supervisor wants to change your days off, if you are told two weeks in advance the supervisor can do it. Less than two weeks’ notice and it is up to you whether you want to make the change. Clearly, the instance of the schedule being posted three days before the start of the work week with changes to the employee’s regular days off was a violation of our contract.
It also states “Hours of work shall be regular and shifts will not be changed except on one week’s notice, by mutual consent, or in instances of emergency.” This means if your supervisor wants to change the hours you work during your shift, if you are told one week in advance the supervisor can do it. Less than one week and it is up to you whether you want to make the change, except in an emergency. Someone else being on vacation hardly qualifies as an emergency. Again, the instance of the schedule being posted three days before the start of the work week with changes to the hours this employee was to work was a contract violation.
If you are having problems with your schedule being posted in a timely manner or if your days off or work hours are being changed on short notice, contact a Guild officer or steward.
The Guild will hold a membership meeting at noon on Thursday, Jan. 22, in the Musicians Hall on Delaware St. across from the Star parking structure. There will be a special election to replace former president Abe Aamidor, a features reporter who volunteered for the Dec. 3 layoffs. All dues-paying members can participate in the election.
The special election will be held in accordance with the bylaws of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild. Article V, Section 4 states: “Vacancies in the post of Local Officers shall be filled by a guild member in good standing selected by the Executive Committee, but the members so designated shall hold office only until the next membership meeting, at which time a new officer shall be nominated from the floor and elected by secret ballot (if there is more than one nomination.)”
The executive committee appointed three interim officers as a result of the loss of the president. These three offices will be open in the special election, president, 1st vice president and treasurer. The three people elected to these offices will serve out the remainder of the three-year term until the Guild’s next regular election in July 2010.
If you are interested in filling any of these offices, attend the meeting and be nominated. You must be a dues-paying member to be an officer and to vote in the special election. Contact a Guild officer or steward if you want to join in order to participate.
While this time might be inconvenient for members who work in the zones, the PPC and at night, there is no provision in the bylaws for absentee ballots in a special election.