Layoffs, contract talks and the potential for new outsourcing

Guild contract negotiations with IndyStar management began Tuesday, barely an hour after we were told two of our producers were laid off as part of the latest round of Gannett job cuts. Quickly, we learned, that the company’s intentions for job cuts aren’t over.

Gannett’s first proposal was to seek a change in the IndyStar contract that would allow local copy editing to be moved to the regional design studio in Louisville. Such a move would result in the elimination of seven jobs in Indianapolis, although two of the seven jobholders would be retained in new positions focused on proofreading headlines and front pages, and web production.

Guild leaders reacted with concern about the proposal, not only for the job losses but also for the potential damage to the quality of the news product. Late Tuesday afternoon, Guild leadership shared the outline of the company’s proposal with those potentially affected.

The Guild offered its own list of proposed contract changes, including:

> 3% annual wage increases over the next three years;

> A $15 minimum wage that would affect print plant custodians and sports clerks

> An extension of the Guild’s health care arrangement with the United Furniture Workers

> Adding the MLK Day as one of the Guild’s paid holidays;

> Expanded time off for funeral leave

> Increased holiday work pay

> Earlier Guild notification of employee performance issues

Guild president Bobby King opened the Guild’s case with some history: He noted that Tuesday’s layoffs were the seventh round of job reductions in eight years for the Star. He said half of the Guild’s current members were present for the 10% wage cut in 2009, and that some of them haven’t yet recovered those losses, much less kept up with inflation. He noted that custodians at the printing plant haven’t seen pay raises in more than four years. He promoted the benefits to both Guild members and management for the extension of the health care arrangement with the UFW. And he made the case that the remaining IndyStar workforce has willingly and eagerly adapted to whatever changes the evolving news business has demanded, producing work that has been honored both within Gannett and nationally.

Negotiations resume Wednesday.

The Guild represents approximately 75 IndyStar employees, including reporters, producers, copy editors, photographers, columnists and clerks.

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