Category Archives: 2009 Contract Negotiations

Information session Sunday, April 19

The Indy News Guild will host the first of several informational meetings related to Gannett’s latest contract proposal this Sunday, April 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Musicians Hall, 325 N. Delaware St. across the street from The Star parking garage.

Attendance is not mandatory, and NO VOTE will occur at this particular meeting. However, it is a fact-finding and fact-providing mission. We believe the company is well aware of the reaction to their planned 12% pay cut and other changes that affect workplace conditions. Let’s not let up.


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Contract settlement proposed

As you are all aware, the Indy News Guild has been involved in contract negotiations with Gannett since January. The labor process has been slow and frustrating, and it’s been complicated by the recession and economic freefall of the newspaper industry. You all have voted twice to approve furloughs that cut your paycheck by 1.94% each time. You have done your part to keep the company afloat.

Now the company has come forward, and it’s asking for more sacrifice. (Elements of the deal are presented below.) The Indy News Guild bargaining committee — while offering NO endorsement and NO recommendation — has agreed to take Gannett’s plan to the union membership for a vote.

The union has only had parts of two days to digest this plan, but our representative from The Newspaper Guild in negotiations, Jay Schmitz, believes that given the current economic climate and the state of the newspaper industry, it is unlikely – without an intense, vocal mobilization campaign — that prolonged negotiations will result in an improved deal. The membership could reject the proposal, and the negotiating committee will resume negotiations where we left off, and continue to keep bargaining until another agreement is achieved or the parties reach impasse.

The contract would be for two years effective the date it is signed through that date in 2011. It would cut your pay by 8% on July 1 and another 4% on Oct. 1. There would be no additional furloughs and no pay cuts for the remainder of the two-year contract. While there is no written guarantee, it is likely we could save jobs and prevent further wage cuts.

You’ll have many questions; we have some answers, but ultimately the company is asking employees to take on faith the fact that Gannett is in desperate straits. Please give the bargaining committee a chance to provide explanations. Keep in mind the committee has minimized some of the damage and that we have attempted numerous alternatives. Also keep in mind, that if the membership rejects this proposal, be prepared to be more actively in involved in activities in support of the bargaining committee’s efforts to get a fair agreement. That is everyone in the Guild and is more than displaying desk signs and wearing lanyards.

Here are the details:

  • The Guild agrees to a two-year term, effective at the signing of the agreement.
  • Four positions will be removed from the Guild (two designer editors, calendar editor and a business editing slot).
  • Wages:
    • July 1 cut: 8%
    • Oct. 1 cut: 4%
    • No increases for the two years of the contract.
    • Scales (the “steps” earned by newcomers) will remain in the contract, but no one will advance in the scales for the two-year term of the agreement.
    • The current language relating to the merit pay system will remain in the contract, but the merit pool will be at 0% and wages will be frozen for the two-year term of agreement.
    • The Guild retains grievance and arbitration rights.
    • There is no change to vacations or personal leave days.
    • A more defined process has been agreed upon for layoffs. However, seniority is no longer the dominant factor in determining who will be laid off; performance, skills and disciplinary record will also be considered.
  • The company withdraws its “same-basis language” that would effectively kill the Guild’s power to intervene in day-to-day affairs.
  • The company withdraws its clause that would have granted it greater abilities to outsource Guild work.
  • Paraprofessionals can write stories of a simple nature.
  • No signing bonus.
  • Some  positions – certain sports beats and columnists – will be exempt from OT.
  • Certain language that relates to advertorial work is still being hammered out.

More details will be forthcoming.

NOTE: The company won’t guarantee, in writing, that if we agree to this overall 12% pay cut that they won’t come back at a later date and ask for more. But in all practicality, unless the company suffers a dramatic financial setback, the company has given us verbal assurances that the Guild will not be asked to take any further financial cuts. In other words, if Gannett enacts a third-quarter furlough companywide, it should not apply to the 200+ members of our Guild because we have already “given at the office.” This has been the company’s practice in relation to other union bargaining units in other cities.

NOTE 2: Agreeing to this deal means we would have to drop a grievance the Guild filed after the Dec. 3 layoffs. We are representing seven people who we contend were laid off in violation of the seniority clause of the contract. We have spent a great deal of time trying to get those people rehired or get them some type of settlement. If the membership approves this agreement, that arbitration will be dropped.

We will keep you posted on the date of the information session and the vote.

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Gannett puts 15% pay cut on the table

The Indianapolis News Guild is sad to inform you that Gannett is now seeking to cut the pay of newsroom and building services employees by 15 percent. The lawyer for the company provided us with a one-page “supplemental” proposal this afternoon that he said would implement this uniform salary reduction either 1) at the time we reach a new contract with the company, or 2) at the time both sides reach an impasse and cease talks.

This was a disappointing move, given that we thought the company’s bargaining team was starting to embrace the concept of negotiating instead of dictating. In fact, we believe the company’s actions at the table today raise the specter of regressive and bad-faith bargaining.

Company lawyer Bill Behan said Gannett expects to save $1.5 million annually by cutting salaries across the board within the union. He said the Indianapolis Star is “viable” and to continue to make it viable, the company must cut its expenses in light of the economic slowdown that is hurting ad revenue.

The Guild did not respond to the proposal immediately; we asked for financial information so we can confirm whether the company’s finances are as dire as claimed. Behan declined to disclose those numbers. He also declined to say whether this 15 percent proposal is aimed exclusively at the 200+ members of our bargaining unit (newsroom and building services) or would also apply to other employees at the Star, including management. And, although we have no direct control over health care costs, we have asked if the company will be adjusting/reducing premiums, as there are four “tiers” that are tied to your annual salary.

Despite this setback, the Indy News Guild believes it is far from an impasse. We were progressing on the matter of layoff language – i.e. how the company uses seniority when it determines who to lay off in such a scenario. The Guild believes it has plenty to talk about at the bargaining table and will continue to try to negotiate a fair contract with the company.

Nothing is going to happen immediately. We return to the bargaining table in mid-April, and we’ll again be calling a membership meeting soon to discuss strategy and our options. As always, stay tuned to this Web site for background and shoot us an email at


Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations

Negotiate, Don’t Dictate signs available for free

Negotiate, Don't DictateYour Indianapolis News Guild 34070 is still in the early stages of negotiations with Gannett over a new contract, and we want talks to stay productive and not one-sided! You can do your part. Ask a Guild officer for one of our “desk tents” — bright red signs that fold into a simple message, a message that needs to be spread around the Indianapolis Star: “NEGOTIATE, Don’t Dictate.” We unveiled them March 8 at a membership meeting of the Guild, and they are now free and available to anyone who wants one.

The Guild contract team returns to the bargaining table this Wednesday and Thursday.

Get up to date and stayed informed at

— the officers, stewards and contract team Indy News Guild 34070

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Guild membership meeting Sunday, March 8

To all members:

The Guild is holding a membership meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at the Musicians Hall. We urge all members to attend. The purpose of the meeting is to bring you up to date on the current contract negotiations and to get your feedback and direction on future negotiations. At the meeting we will:

1. Explain the company’s current contract proposals and how they will affect you and your working conditions.

2. Seek direction from the membership on how you want the Guild negotiating committee to deal with the company’s three worst proposals. They are:

  • a pay freeze — and the company has threatened to seek a pay cut if the Guild does not agree to a new contract quickly;
  • the elimination of seniority as a consideration in future layoffs;
  • and a “same as” provision. This “same as” provision would allow the company to impose any working conditions it deems necessary to reduce business expenses on Guild employees as long as it imposes the same working conditions on non-union employees. This proposal also seeks to take away the Guild’s right to file grievances or seek arbitration on these changes.

3. Discuss what the members are willing to do to support the Guild as it tries to negotiate these proposals.

Gannett’s labor team is pushing our bargaining committee to agree quickly to the three proposals outlined above. The company has threatened that its proposals will get worse if we do not agree to what they have offered. We consider their tactics not a negotiation, but a dictation.

The Indianapolis Star is changing, all in the name of economic survival. The impact has been felt in a variety of ways — smaller newspapers, layoffs, furloughs, and even an ad in the skybox of A1 starting with Sunday’s paper. The Guild’s members already have shown they are willing to make concessions to help the company during the difficult economic times by approving the furloughs in the first quarter of this year. Now we must fight to preserve as much of our contract as we can.

We need to hear your voice before we meet again to negotiate with the company’s representatives on March 11 and 12. Please attend the Guild membership meeting at the Musicians Hall 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8. This is an opportunity for you to help shape our next contract.

The Guild contract negotiating committee

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, Events/Meetings