Latest layoffs expected to start

Based on an e-mail all of us Gannett properties received last week, we expect some bad news to strike the newsroom by Thursday, with the possibility (based on reports on various blogs) that some employees could receive word of a layoff as early as this evening. Your Guild has tried to become part of the process, including requesting that the actual number of layoffs be reduced by requesting that the Indy Star “count” staffers who had already planned to exit. We also asked for details in advance, but were told that we will have to ferret that information out on our own. We intend to do precisely that, and you can help by letting us know what you hear.

Also, this afternoon Guild president Tom Spalding sent the following letter to Indy Star VP/human resources James Keough:

This is an information request filed on behalf of the members of the Indianapolis News Guild Local 34070. We are seeking the following information as soon as possible:

  1. The names and titles of all Guild-covered employees whose jobs are being terminated by July 9, 2009 as part of the layoffs announced last week by Bob Dickey. You are welcome to provide those to us at this e-mail address, individually, or to me by cell phone (340-7836) after each of the affected workers is notified.
  2. The approximate total amount of savings that these cuts of Guild members will generate.
  3. The manner in which the company intends to pay out severance. To remind you, our contract calls for one week of pay for each year of seniority in the event of layoff. New Gannett spokeswoman Robin Pence confirmed to Gannettoid in an e-mail that the company has hired Total Management Solutions to handle severance payments for this round of layoffs.

Like before, when the dust settles the Guild intends to be heavily involved — both in ensuring seniority is followed but also staying in immediate contact with our coworkers who are let go. Guild officers plan to meet Thursday afternoon to discuss if there’s a way to mitigate the damage.

Meanwhile, we know many of you have angst, and we sought to quantify that angst. Consider these ugly statistics:

  • Aug. 15, 2008: The first official company announcement of layoffs. Layoff day occurred Aug 19.
  • Oct. 28, 2008: Another announcement of layoffs. Layoff day occurred Dec. 3, about five weeks later.
  • Jan. & Apr. 2009: Furlough votes for 1Q and 2Q respectively. We were threatened with layoffs if we didn’t agree to the unpaid furloughs.
  • Beginning of June, 2009: July layoffs were leaked on Gannett Blog. That’s about five weeks from when they are to actually occur.

So, there have been about 11 weeks total within the past 42 weeks that we’ve been in the middle of being threatened with being laid off. That’s 1/4th of the time. That’s a significant percentage of the past several months that we’ve been right in the middle of being threatened with being laid off. That’s not a good thing.

From a guild perspective, we’re at a historically bad moment right now — a voted-down contract June 30 and a company that has threatened 15% pay cuts if negotiations go to impasse, with layoffs going on at the same time. Really, it’s a crisis on several fronts. Guild membership, however, is at a historically high level – the highest percentage in the past five years, possibly one of the highest percentages in the past 20 years, and quite a few people have been very active with the union. We have a healthy guild in extraordinarily unhealthy times. This guild would have had a harder time weathering this storm several years ago. We thank you for your solidarity.


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