Indy News Guild responds to fingerprint time-keeping and W2s

The Indianapolis News Guild informed Editor Dennis Ryerson by e-mail this evening that we are requesting the right to bargain any change to the current time-keeping system, based on conversations that officer and stewards had with staff, email you sent us, as well as peer newspapers we spoke to, none of whom use a fingerprint-like system in place of manual entry. [Some use a card-swipe, but in cities like Nashville, only newsroom employees with set hours (copy desk, design) use a swipe card.] We’ve asked for a meeting, and will keep you posted on the response to our letter [Read the attached email that we sent Ryerson today].

Also: Guild treasurer Geoff Ooley and other members curious about why they received an odd-looking name on official tax records by mail received this message from Star human resources: “The name on the 2009 W-2, Pacific and Southern Co., Inc., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gannett. This is an internal organizational structure change only, that was implemented by corporate. From time to time, Gannett Corporate restructures its operations for tax and other reasons. This change has no impact on you or employment. No additional action is needed for you to file your 2009 tax returns. Proceed as you normally would.”

— Officers and stewards of Indy News Guild 34070

Here’s the letter:

Feb. 3, 2010

Dennis,

In regards to the issue of the Kronos system:

The Star is certainly entitled to implement reasonable modifications to any time-keeping system that controls costs while protecting the sanctity of the contractually regulated 40-hour workweek. We assume the company’s goals are to reduce the hassle of manually collecting and inputting paper records. But the system planned by Gannett for the Indianapolis Star, as initially outlined by HR, seems unwieldy and counterproductive to your main goal of efficiency — and the Indy News Guild is formally requesting the right to bargain this before the system goes “live,” as it represents a change in past practice.

I hope you will urge to the highers-up here at the Star that the Guild would only be OK with switching to a card-swipe timekeeping system as a last resort — and that we definitely OBJECT to any type of finger or thumbprint imagery-based system. We are NOT AGAINST computerizing the time-keeping system, but why the company is fast-tracking an initiative before seeking input from the staff seems unclear to us. And any system needs to be applied fairly and logically.

Main issues (but by no means are they the only ones) we’ve identified: Employees will waste time trying to make sure they are “on track” and aren’t being shortchanged or aren’t “going over” as they progress through the 80-hour pay period; employees will deluge paraprofessionals or supervisors in their respective departments to adjust times at various points during the week, since this is a new system and they aren’t accustomed to the punch-clock concept — particularly if they take a lunch and forget to clock back in; and, how do you improve efficiency if you still have a manual-entry paperwork system for Guild-covered employees outside of the main office; and other Gannett papers vary, just like Indianapolis, in how they keep records.

The overwhelming preference among Guild members is that we maintain an “honor” system (employees turn in paper timesheets at the end of each two-week pay period).

HR Vice President James Keough told the newsroom via Q&A that Gannett has this Kronos system in place at Detroit, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Nashville and Rochester, among others … but we checked … and the newsroom in Detroit does not use a fingerprint system (just swipe cards).

Rochester has swipe cards but not a fingerprint system. Nashville has Kronos but the reporters and photogs don’t use it — just those on the design/copy desk, and by swipe, not fingerprint. Cincinnati’s newsroom has no system, contrary to what was told to us. Hawaii considered Kronos 3 years ago but it was abandoned when the Guild informed the Advertiser it would ask its members to track every second. The Arizona Republic reporter AND copy desk veteran I talked to on the phone — veterans of that operation — say they e-mail their time sheets to a coordinator each week, and said they are not sure where James’ information about Kronos use originated.

Why not a compromise: a Web site that would allows employees to type their hours into a database so those employees in the Downtown office (or working in the zones or remotely) could sign in and keep track of their hours. That would save paraprofessionals a lot of headaches; online producer Joey Marburger was working on such a system before he departed for Gannett HQ near D.C.

Lastly, here are some comments (names edited out) from the staff so you can get a general sense of the feelings across the newsroom, including zones:

  • What’s next? Raising our hands to ask if we can use the restroom? We do our work — they get our 40 hours (and then some). Morale is bad enough. I don’t see how treating us like 5-year-olds will improve it.
  • Honestly, my biggest concern is what do they do with the fingerprint once they have created the binary “representation” of the fingerprint for the machine? I don’t want Gannett to have a copy of any of my fingerprints, frankly.
  • What about time spent covering games, school board meetings, interview sessions. This seems like a ridiculous way to keep track of reporters’ time. I do a lot of work from home because I have a laptop and no computer at my desk and that’s way I’ve always worked. But it makes no sense for reporters who work in the office, either Can’t see how this works for anyone but copy editors and paraprofessionals who don’t leave the office.
  • I’m not sure I fully understand the repercussions of the Kronos system that would expose how much time it actually takes to make the daily miracle happen.
  • I think this system would be a nightmare for reporters. Especially since our hours are all over the place and we are pretty much at the beck and call of the copy desk, meeting, and our sources. I often work from the office, home, my car, over lunch breaks, etc.
  • If I start my work day up north at meeting or hard-hat tour in Noblesville, how do I get credited for that time? It would seem there will be people in this situation ALL the time, and the paperwork to fill in the gaps would negate the system’s efficiency.
  • There are a number of folks here who, for whatever reason, refuse to wash their hands properly after hitting the restroom. I’m not policing this, mind you, but I’m aware of it. It would seem a communal system that requires every one to touch it would be unsanitary. I keep anti-bacterial gel handy and touch as few doorhandles in this place as possible, but a new thing that requires everyone to touch it just sounds gross.
  • This system is inefficient for a working newsroom and an affront to employees already demoralized by the recent wage cuts.
  • If the company insists that every second of workers’ time be tracked electronically … then the Guild should insist that calls by editors to reporters’ homes for questions on stories, etc. continue but be “counted in” as part of the work week.

Reiterating: the Guild is NOT OPPOSED to computerized time-keeping but does object to the planned fingerprint time-keeping system and has questions that need to be addressed.

We look forward to more discussion on this issue, Dennis.

Thank you.

For the Indy News Guild 34070 —

Tom Spalding
president

cc: Guild officers, stewards

4 Comments

Filed under General, Ongoing Issues

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