Contract vote aftermath, a letter to the publisher

The following letter was sent out earlier this afternoon to the publisher, Michael Kane, which we wanted to share with you.

Michael Kane
publisher, Indianapolis Star

Aug. 26, 2009

Dear Mr. Kane,

The membership of Indianapolis News Guild 34070 voted 56-45 Tuesday to ratify a two-year contract with Gannett, running Aug. 30 through Aug. 29, 2011. The contract includes a 10% pay cut and no wage increases during the term.

We want to emphasize that the action by the membership of the Guild is a financial sacrifice meant to help the Star’s bottom line during this economic downturn. It is one of the highest permanent wage cuts of any newspaper in the country. It is a sacrifice that our unit (newsroom/building services) alone is bearing, as management and other non-union personnel have not been asked for the same sweeping, universal cut; our vote will save the company an estimated $2 million in payroll over the next two years.

Long-term, we expect the company to be aware of this sacrifice when the economy improves. Short-term, we expect the company to spare this unit should Gannett need to continue to cut costs.

As members’ pay is cut 10%, the Guild will accordingly reduce dues by a similar amount. The Guild requests that the company allow unit members enrolled in the company health care plan to have their premiums lowered immediately if their new hourly wage drops them down a level; premiums, as you know, are based on four “tiers” and some Guild members may drop from tier “C” to “B” or from “B” to “A,” for example. It is not only fair, but the right thing to do, in our opinion.

The new contract gives you flexibility to assign our team of journalists to work on products that we are not accustomed to working, including the possibility of advertorial. Out of a concern for ethics, we request that you never exercise that damaging option for ANY Guild-covered employees.

Finally, now that bargaining is over, the Guild hopes the company will allow Editor Dennis Ryerson to address the aftermath of this new contract with its employees, who are bewildered, upset and depressed over the economic hardship they now face. That hardship was forced on them to fulfill a company mandate that was never satisfactorily explained. They have many questions about why the Indy Star needed to improve its profitability at the expense of only a fifth of its staff.

They feel guilty that the company tied an unrelated arbitration to contract talks and that they were forced to “take sides” and sacrifice 7 former co-workers to save their own jobs.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Tom Spalding, president
Indianapolis News Guild 34070
with the contract bargaining team and officers

cc: James Keough, Dennis Ryerson, Jay Schmitz, Bernie Lunzer

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations

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