Recap, 1st negotiations with Star

Members of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild Local 34070 — your union reps — met with three members of management Thursday, Jan. 8, to begin bargaining what would be our third contract in Gannett’s 9-year ownership of the Star. Our side submitted an initial proposal, and the company followed suit. We adjourned immediately after, and both sides have much to digest until our next sessions slated for Feb. 9-10.

The company’s 12-page offer sheet contains some surprising requests — not that unusual, frankly; these are just starting points, and we’ll wager they are as bothered with some of the elements of our proposal as we are with theirs.

As a Guild member, however, you should be aware of the plans of management, which include:

  • The Guild wants the Star to adopt Gannett’s ethics policy into our contract to ensure the wall between advertising and editorial is never breached; Gannett, however, proposes that managers would have the right to assign journalists to news and info projects of any type that would include (besides print, online, TV and radio) custom publications, which is a code word for advertorial.
  • The Guild proposes reasonable, across-the-board pay raises of 4% to replace the unreliable merit pool system of the past and to give employees a reliable wage hike in place of confusing formulas the company currently uses; Gannett proposes that only managers get to grant raises, and only as they see fit.
  • The Guild proposed to keep the wage structure we have, and to raise all contract rates to reflect inflation since 2005. The company proposed to do away with contract minimums other than first-year minimums, and did not adjust them for inflation since 2005. The company proposal for pay for building services employees is at $7.02 per hour, a figure that will be below the federal minimum wage when it goes up to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.
  • The Guild would allow the company to do layoffs but only because of demonstrated economic need and only after seniority is given No.1 consideration; Gannett wants the publisher to be the sole judge in determining layoffs, and that layoffs can occur at the publisher’s whim, including when he or she deems that worker’s job to be “expendable” — with no right to file a grievance or get a judge to look at it in arbitration.
  • The Guild made absolutely no changes to the list of people who are exempt from the contract, which normally includes high-ranking, management-level editors; Gannett wants to make exempt some pro sports beat writers, editorial writers, and columnists from all sections of the newspaper — with no hope for overtime or any other contract protections.

Gannett wants the right to outsource some types of jobs (it didn’t say which) and the ability to make across-the-board wage reductions. It wants to exempt some reporters and columnists from being able to collect OT. It wants the right to control your 40-hour work week by splitting your shifts and even your off days — if beat coverage so dictates — at their discretion, not by mutual consent. It wants the right to make demotions as it sees fit and reduce a person’s salary in the process. Whereas the contract currently calls for an employee to receive 1-1/2 times OT pay if called in after their shift, under Gannett’s proposal, now they would just receive straight time — no bonus.

In sum, some pretty scary provisions are being presented to us, in one of the worst times for our industry. Unfortunately, regardless of how well Indianapolis is performing as a business, we’re going to be viewed in the context of how Gannett as a whole is operating. Because of that prospect, we’re going to need the support of our 200+ member Guild like never before to make our voice loud and clear, and we’re going to need to hear from you.

The bargaining committee will meet this Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m., at the musicians hall across from the parking garage. The next membership meeting, meanwhile, is noon Thursday, Jan. 22, also at the musicians hall. It also is a special election to pick a president, treasurer and vice president for a term that runs through July 2010. Duespayers can come and vote. Non-duespayers, come over and we’ll sign you up. Either way, bend our ear, via an e-mail at indynewsguild70@gmail.com. We promise to act in your best interests and to keep you posted throughout this process. And keep in mind that we are still operating under the protections of the “expired” 2005 contract thanks to the evergreen clause.

In solidarity,

Officers and stewards of the Indy News Guild
www.indynewsguild.com

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations

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