A ‘No’ to us: How about ‘No’ to them?

Highlights of this electronic-only edition: Indy News Guild upset over Gannett CEO salary; company rejects request to renegotiate contract to allow for potential of wage increase; we urge all members to resist taking part in any voluntary extra-curricular activity that comes from HR; next Guild meeting is Tuesday March 30.

This is meant for Guild members’ eyes only.

As unveiled by the Gannett Blog, our parent company paid Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow $4.7 million last year, a sharp increase over the $3.1 million he took home in 2008 … and his 2009 pay included a bonus of $1.5 million that came after he engineered record layoffs and other cost cutting across the company. Other execs got similar bonuses.The Indy News Guild intends to send correspondence to all the directors of Gannett protesting these perks. We strongly believe in capitalism and earning/keeping the fruits of one’s labor – but not earning it by (to borrow an expression) climbing over the bloodied bodies of our employees — and to the ultimate detriment of the company. The executives instead should set this money aside for, among other purposes, to help pay off Gannett debt.

Check your Star e-mail (it should have hit your inbox around 1 p.m. Friday) carefully for a 2010 Gannett shareholders’ meeting update that links to the Web site where stockholders can either attend or cast an absentee ‘proxy’ vote for the May 4 meeting. If you own even 1 share of Gannett stock (like through a 401k) you should have received an e-mail correspondence. (The Web site to read the proxy is http://bit.ly/bXLzCy) Unfortunately, the subject line in the e-mail was nondescriptive and coyly worded, and the e-mail may have been easily put to trash or disposed of. It’s worth resurrecting, in Guild officers’ opinions. We read over the 96-page document. Here’s how we recommend you vote on the four proposals, based on the best way to send a message of protest to the board of directors regarding their ’09 bonuses and executive pay. Will your vote make a dent? That’s up to us to decide.

  • Proposal 1.  Re-election of all 10 directors, including Craig Dubow. Our suggestion: [[Vote to Withhold from all nominees]]
  • Proposal 2.    PROPOSAL TO RATIFY Ernst & Young LLP as the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm for the 2010 fiscal year.  [[Vote For]]
  • Proposal 3.    PROPOSAL TO APPROVE the Company’s amended and restated 2001 Omnibus Incentive Compensation Plan. [[Vote Against]]
  • Proposal 4.    SHAREHOLDER PROPOSAL relating to the use of tax gross-ups as an element of compensation for senior executives.  [[For]]
  • Notes: #4 is interesting — a grassroots campaign by a Gannett shareholder that would ban senior executives from receiving any tax “gross-up” payments — which basically perks on a perk. Gannett had to list this proposal in its proxy but urged an ‘AGAINST’ vote. We say vote ‘FOR’ it.

In 2009, Indy News Guild members twice made voluntary pay concessions in an effort to help the company through a difficult economic time. Instead of insisting the pay provisions of our existing contract be fulfilled, members twice voted to accept one-week unpaid furloughs without receiving any concessions from the company. Last August, our members also agreed to a contract that included a 10% pay cut and a wage freeze for its term, based on the company’s claim that this was an economic necessity.

So when the company recently announced the end to the company-wide pay freeze as of April 1, the Guild invited Star management to alter the contract with a side letter that would make Guild-represented employees eligible for merit raises at the company’s discretion. The eligibility for merit raises would end if the company returned to a wage freeze for non-union employees. Their e-mail responses to Guild president Tom Spalding, who issued the proposal with the backing of officers and stewards, were disappointing. Ryerson did not address merit raises directly, choosing to continue to emphasize the general economic downturn for newspapers in general. Wrote Ryerson: “I can’t speak for the company.  I do know that job cuts here have been far less than at other papers such as San Francisco, San Jose and Baltimore, and that we’re doing all that we can to hold on to the jobs we have.”James Keough, vice president of human resources at the Star, wrote to Spalding: “As you know and have acknowledged, there is no merit pool for the duration of the current contract. I certainly understand where your bargaining unit members are coming from on this. Dennis also raises a good point. The company has no interest in entering into negotiations on this issue.”

In response, the Indy News Guild recommends that its members say “no” to any workplace related volunteer HR (i.e. outside-the-newsroom) initiative now through August 2011. The Guild asks its members, for example, to not serve on any Employee Newsletter Task Force or the Engagement Team or any other type of extracurricular activity that is developed that you spot and that you let us know about. That includes skipping the publisher’s meetings. Officers would immediately reconsider this ‘non-involvement stance’ if the company changes its mind about the wage freeze being lifted for all.

In addition, members should follow the letter of the contract. This includes not changing work hours with less than one week’s notice. If you are required to work overtime on any day during a work week, you cannot be required to work fewer hours on a different day in that work week to avoid qualifying for overtime. The contract requires one week’s notice to change your work hours. If you are being required to work overtime, you should be paid the overtime rate and not forced to change your work schedule without the required notice. Your schedule and work hours should be posted two weeks in advance. Work the hours you are assigned. If you work additional hours, you should be paid overtime. If you have any problems with a supervisor about this, contact a Guild officer or steward.

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, which represents about 180 newsroom and building service employees, with the help of the international Newspaper Guild, is suing The Star to preserve its arbitration rights, and possibly win back the jobs of some people who were laid off last summer. This was done after management at The Star rejected the Guild’s grievance over the layoff of eight employees in July and then refused to submit it to binding arbitration as required by our contract. We have received help from former officers and employees, including former Guild president Marc Allan and former secretary Syliva Halladay, as we prepared our case. After gathering the necessary evidence, the Guild filed the lawsuit Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court against Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. and Pacific and Southern Co., subsidiaries of Gannett. The Star editors were made made aware of the lawsuit and chose not to report on it with a news story. The Indianapolis Business Journal did. At issue is whether some sections of the Guild’s contract, which expired Dec. 31, 2008, no longer were in effect while the Guild and the company were in contract negotiations. The company contends our right to seek arbitration was not in force when the previous contract expired Dec. 31, 2008. The Guild contends the “evergreen clause” in the contract keeps the entire contract and all its provisions in force while the two sides are engaged in negotiations. “It’s procedural, but it’s important because if we win — and we think we will — it preserves our right to challenge the July layoffs,” Guild President Tom Spalding told the IBJ. “Our goal is to get these people rehired.”


Exempt most union employees from the finger-scanning time card system, Guild asks:
The Indy Star staff was informed in January that Gannett intends to put a Kronos “fingerprint representation” scanner into use in the coming months to keep track of employees’ work hours. This will replace the time cards employees currently fill out and submit every two weeks. The company says this system cuts the amount of people and time required to keep track of employees’ work time and issue paychecks. The company’s human resources department and Star editor Dennis Ryerson have said it will take about 45 days for employees to get used to the system and then it functions without problems. After several meetings with the company, the Guild formally requested that all reporters, and all newsroom employees, who don’t have a set schedule in the Downtown office, be exempted from being required to use the Kronos system. (Those of you who don’t get OT are already exempted.) We are awaiting their answer.

The Guild will object to any scenario in which an employee is subject to discipline or put on a formal Performance Improvement Plan over ‘scanning issues’ where they need to repeatedly have a clerk/editor manually make fixes to the computer system. We feel this system is ill-timed …  and the Guild does not support this change, but will strictly monitor it. Is their an upside? Well, the Guild has been assured by human resources the company wants to make sure all employees are paid for all the time they work. If a reporter takes a call from a source or an editor checking facts on a story after clocking out, this time will count toward the 40-hour work week. Just make sure to track every second and keep your supervisor aware of time situations — call Downtown and make a night supervisor aware so that your time is properly credited. The Guild’s position is a fingerprint-image scan system is not the best way to keep track of the work hours for reporters and photographers whose jobs take them away from the newsroom much of the time. We’ve advised them of the headaches and urged them to implement a system that would allow employees to electronically input their hours into a database much like we do for time-off requests, etc. They won’t go for it.

Parking lot changes:
The Guild has made no secret of its questioning of the money the company charges employees to park in the Downtown multi-story parking garage, although it is not a situation we have jurisdiction over. Revised payment deductions began March 14 that make the rate $30 per month for daysiders and $16 for nightsiders. The company says the parking rates are reasonable. We are concerned due to the plans by the company to charge employees who park in the uncovered surface area (mainly photographers who make frequent trips off the lot). However, those users are “grandfathered” until August 2011 and won’t have to pay, according to what we have heard from employees, which is good news and will give the Guild time to talk to union members affected by the eventual increase.

Go Ted and Abe:
Congratulations to reporter Ted Evanoff and former features reporter Abe Aamidor, also a former Guild president, who recently had their book “At the Crossroads” published. The book takes a look at the devastation the failing auto industry has done in Central Indiana and elsewhere.

Callback language, differential:
Although the company has challenged our grievance related to the July layoffs, there is a provision in the contract related to layoffs that requires the company to give those who were laid off first preference for two years for any new jobs. The contract is not specific on the issue of a guaranteed rehire, and the Guild and the company are working to draft language for a call-back procedure. The Guild and the company are also working on language that will set up a flat differential to be paid to those who for Guild-represented employees who fill in for managers. We hope to have that system in place soon.

Another election:
Officers (five of them) are selected by the News Guild every three years, per bylaws, for three-year, unpaid terms. Your choice to become involved is certainly encouraged, and there are many rewards that come with being an officer — leadership, a chance to assist your coworkers, and the forum to make the workplace a better place to be. All five terms are “up” July 1, and we could really use your help — this is your union. Representation is especially welcome from photographers and building services, in particular.


April 1 kicks in the vacation request time-tracking system. All requests for days off have to be OK’d within two weeks of their submission by your manager. And if they aren’t, let us know.

Our Next meeting is scheduled for 2-245 p.m. Tuesday, March30 at the Musicians Hall, 325 N. Delaware St., if you want to address concerns, gripe about issues in the newsroom or just get your frustrations off your chest in a safe, collegial environment.


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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings, General, Grievances/Arbitration, Layoffs/Buyouts, Ongoing Issues

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