Category Archives: Layoffs/Buyouts

Indy News Guild spared from Q1 furlough

This is a follow-up to an earlier e-mail regarding the Bob Dickey/corporate announcement today. It’s “good” news; the employees covered by the Indianapolis Guild will not be asked to participate in 1st Quarter furloughs. Publisher Karen Crotchfelt told this to Guild president Tom Spalding in the newsroom, in person, this afternoon. She also sent an e-mail to a reporter separately, same comment. We have asked for a statement from the company, in writing. That is pending.

Regardless, this is a victory for the contract. We’ve already made a huge financial sacrifice. The company knows our unit is NOT in a giving mood, especially given the outrageous bonuses paid out to Gannett’s executive leadership.

This is also a reminder that 2011 will represent another milestone year for the Guild, what with negotiations expected to commence in late summer/early fall. We thank you for all your support and/or feedback.

In solidarity,
the officers and stewards of Indianapolis News Guild 34070

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News from Gannett regarding Q1 furloughs

An announcement was made this afternoon from Gannett that first-quarter unpaid furloughs will be instituted — and the email from Bob Dickey said that the company will be “communicating separately with union representatives to discuss the treatment of bargaining unit employees.” The Indy News Guild as of 2 p.m. has not been contacted by the company regarding what this “treatment” is going to be.

A few points:

  • We aren’t sure if our unit will be asked to take a 5-day unpaid leave as well, which in the past has amounted to a roughly 2% loss of a year’s worth of pay.
  • We’ll remind you (and them) that our membership, which is protected by a contract, has to vote on any matters regarding reduction in pay. Membership voted on 1Q and 2Q furloughs in 2009, and also took a 10% pay cut. If you’d like to vote, you need to be a dues paying member. Just send an e-mail to any officer listed in the to: field in this message.
  • We will remind the company that our newsroom and building services units have suffered enough financially. We’ll also remind them of the huge bonuses received by Craig Dubow, Bob Dickey et al that the Guild formally protested in letter to the SEC in 2010.

We’ll keep you posted on any new developments.

— Officers and stewards of Indy News Guild 34070

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Keep It Local campaign begins in Indy

Keep It LocalGreetings to all of you on this Labor Day 2010.

This week, the Indianapolis News Guild will distribute new signs that we hope you will all hang/showcase/display, on your desks.

The sign says “Keep it Local” … and this will kick off our publicity campaign against the Gannett hub concept that threatens to break apart our newsroom. We believe that consolidated hubs are a mistake and that the best way for journalists to serve readers is by having journalism done locally.

Similar outreach efforts are being coordinated or are planned this week at the other Gannett properties that have unions including Rochester, St. Louis and Detroit and Sheboygan.

Attached is a copy of our flier — locally produced, of course, by one of our expert designers. They’ll match in color and attitude our desk tents and lanyards.

We hope all of you will participate with us.

In solidarity,
The Indy News Guild leadership team

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Filed under 2009 Contract Negotiations, General, Layoffs/Buyouts, Ongoing Issues

Reaction to outsourcing of Indianapolis Star design desk work

Gannett’s capacity for inflicting pain can still surprise and outrage.

Less than a week removed from the one-year anniversary of the layoffs of 21 of our coworkers (editors and Guild members) came a bombshell from corporate regarding the “moving” of page design to five hubs, a cost-cutting measure that will eventually lead to layoffs at the Indy Star. Design work here, we’re told, will be coordinated by a do-it-all [and presumably bottom-of-the-pay-scale] Gannett center based in Louisville, Ky. Star newsroom leaders Dennis Ryerson, Jenny Green and Scott Goldman briefed about a dozen page designers/graphic artists Tuesday, July 13. Guild President Tom Spalding and Guild secretary Emily Kuzniar (who is also a designer, and will be impacted by the changes) sat in on the meeting. Ryerson said his goal was to keep as much of a design “presence” at 307 N. Penn, as much as he could, and that he thought that our newspaper won’t be impacted until late in the process, but that some jobs would probably be lost. He senses that we’re a year or possibly two years away — but not off the hook — from another big blow to our newsroom.

The designers were encouraged to continue doing the kind of high-quality,one-of-a-kind award-winning work they’ve been doing despite the frustratingly pitiful amount of detail about Gannett’s plans here. We hope to show Gannett that the cookie-cutter approach to cost savings won’t work here, is short-sighted, and is illogical. And hopefully, the move toward consolidated centers at other papers flops miserably and they give up on the idea, or we are exempted from it, being too big of a metro for it to work.

From our perspective, the Indy News Guild contract DOES NOT ALLOW outsourcing and the company CANNOT lay off staff as a result of using non-union personnel to get design done. Gannett/Indy Star will have to negotiate that right after the current two-year contract expires. At the very earliest, that’s SEPT. 1,  2011, presuming that the next contract negotiations go smoothly.

We want to note that Gannett tried to get the right to outsource certain types of Star newsroom/building services jobs during negotiations in 2009 and we rejected and resisted that, and they relented. We ended up with the unpalatable wage freeze and 10% pay cut but we at least kept the contract in place that gives us power to fight.

Guild leaders have reached out to Jay Schmitz, our Indiana-based adviser, Bernie Lunzer, president of The Newspaper Guild, and D.C. attorney Kathy Mulvey, who helps locals like Indy determine when our contract has been violated and helps us process any grievances. Officially the Indy News Guild HAS NOT BEEN NOTIFIED by the company about the company’s outsourcing plans, but your Guild is being proactive. We hope to get guidance and hold a meeting soon for our members at the Musicians Hall to let them know what the Guild is going to do about this and to ask questions.

We will defend our turf.

In solidarity, the officers and stewards of Indy News Guild 34070

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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.

WE’LL PROTEST:
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.

SEND A MESSAGE TO THE BOARD:
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.

UPDATE: GANNETT SAYS ‘NO’ TO OUR WAGE PROPOSAL:
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.”

… SO LET’S SAY ‘NO’ TO THEM:
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.

WE SUED:
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.”

OTHER ISSUES WE’VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH

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.

Vacation:

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.

COME VENT!
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

Bargaining set for Aug. 6-7, important developments

The Indianapolis News Guild has some important new developments to share with you regarding our ongoing effort to craft a final contract that both negotiating teams can accept and that you, our duespayers, can ratify soon.

Acting on the advice of our parent union, TNG-CWA, we proposed to the company that we involve a federal mediator at this stage of the negotiations. Having received no objections from our verbal and written communications about the mediator, we contacted Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Commissioner Conrad Bowling and requested possible meeting dates from him. He offered Aug. 6 and 7 and we have accepted those dates. The company has agreed.

Also, we have filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the company, based on threats that management made to the Guild in the course of discussions over possible bargaining dates. The company threatened to issue a “last, best and final” proposal if we would not agree to certain bargaining dates. When we informed them that we were unable to agree to the certain specific dates that management was demanding, the company issued that “last, best and final” proposal. This violates labor law on several counts. Bargaining dates must be mutually agreeable and not something that one side dictates to another. In addition, a “last, best and final” proposal is something that is normally given after all attempts at a mutual agreement have been exhausted. It is not supposed to be used as a punitive tool to force the union to meet before it is ready to resume discussions. We believe the company’s actions are premature, punitive, regressive and illegal retaliation for our refusal to be unnecessarily rushed back to the table, as well as retaliation for Guild members daring to reject their previous package offer. We are contemplating additional charges with the NLRB.

The company did this after accusing the Guild in a meeting last Friday of “stalling” after we asked for an extra week to reconstitute our bargaining committee, which was devastated by layoffs of team members Sylvia Halladay and Michelle Watson. Simply put, the company still wants at least a 12 percent pay cut from the Guild-represented employees. See below for more details about what the company is now seeking. We also asked management to provide us with answers to an information request that they have had for many weeks now, and the company told us that their response to our request for information was contingent on our agreeing to their bargaining dates (another violation of labor law). They did eventually provide us with a response but it is lacking in any substantial details.

Star management and Gannett corporate lawyers want people to believe that we are unduly dragging out negotiations. Given the circumstances, we firmly believe we are acting appropriately in seeking the time to fully reconstitute our bargaining committee and seeking more information about the company’s supposed financial needs. We have NEVER refused to bargain; we have not agreed to the company’s timetable as to when the next meetings will take place and as a result, they have resorted to bully tactics. By the way, the company has never given us any explanation why they feel the meetings must take place right away.

Our motto since talks began in January is “Negotiate, don’t dictate” and we have sacrificed our pay through two furloughs and lost valued comrades. Given the economic climate, we believe that Guild members would agree to a wage freeze for two years and might accept some type of pay cut – especially if that cut isn’t permanent, or would improve when Gannett sees ad revenues improve.

But Gannett is claiming economic needs without providing proof, and they have so far failed to provide any relevant information to us regarding their justification for a double-digit percentage pay reduction. Guild President Tom Spalding asked Indy Star Publisher Michael G. Kane for an explanation of the numbers and was rebuffed, as many of you heard.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is an agency of the United States government that handles arbitration and mediation of labor disputes and contract negotiations. We are hopeful that the neutral mediator will be of assistance in reaching understandings that can lead to a finalized tentative agreement that both sides can accept. As we said before, we’re waiting to see if the company will accept the mediator’s invitation to meet.

Further complicating these negotiations is the fact that the company has been sending out mixed messages. They started on April 17, when we were told in a memo: “While Star Media has seen similar economic impact on our local business, we were able to fare better than the company as a whole.” They continued July 16, when Robert J. Dickey told analysts during a Gannett 2nd quarter earnings call: “I would tell you that our interstate group, which is Indianapolis, Midwest portion of the country, right now is our strongest performer.”

Another issue: The copy of the company’s last, best and final contract offer was purported by their side to (except for the wage proposal) to be identical to the tentative agreement previously provided to the Union – the deal that membership rejected 97-9 on June 30. Upon review, however, we find that the proposal is nowhere near identical and in fact we have identified a number of significant differences between this proposal and the previous package that was presented to Guild membership for a vote. This makes us wonder if we have received an incorrect version of their offer or if the company is being disingenuous.

How it shakes out (this is our initial review of their proposal and should not be considered a complete inventory of changes at this time):

  • An immediate 12 percent pay cut for all Guild represented employees, rather than a split 8% and 4% as in the rejected offer.
  • No pay increases for the two-year term of the contract, same as rejected offer.
  • Wage scales remain but no one advances for term of contract, same as rejected offer.
  • It completely eliminates merit pool language; rejected offer kept the merit pool language but the merit pool went dormant. New language would give managers a great deal of discretion regarding future merit pay increases.
  • Seniority language related to layoffs is much worse than the rejected offer.
  • Same 10 jobs lose OT.
  • More Guild positions become exempted than in rejected agreement.
  • Still allows paraprofessionals to write stories.
  • Still adds “custom publications” to management rights section.
  • Still adds “flexibility” language that leaves advertorial/editorial decisions to sole discretion of publisher and now does not include any exclusions of any classifications; rejected agreement excepted reporters, copy editors and photographers from advertorial work.

Changes from current contract there were not in rejected offer:

  • Outsourcing language has been put back in the offer; this was not in the rejected contract offer.
  • It eliminates the language that outlined how previous experience was used to figure out where new employees would start on the pay scale.
  • Adds a clause to sentence on poor review not being reason to reduce pay that says, “unless the Employer determines that a consistently poor performance rating in a current job classification merits a job transfer to a lower classification in lieu of termination.”
  • Employees who are removed from their positions by the company may move into lower paying jobs but only with Employer approval; current contract left decision to leave position for lower paying job to the employee.
  • Changes notification time of permanent change in work day (8 to 10 hours or 10 to 8 hours) to two weeks; current contract calls for 30 days notice.
  • Eliminates daily overtime.
  • Call backs guaranteed 3 hours of straight time minimum; current contract calls for 3 hours of OT minimum.
  • Allows scheduling of split days off for reporters based on requirements of beat.

View a PDF copy of the company’s contract proposal

And finally, it is uncertain whether the company is still demanding that the Guild drop our current arbitration on the December layoffs.

We’ll continue to fight on your behalf.

We are planning an internal survey to reassess what our members can live with.

Sincerely,
Tom Spalding
President, Indianapolis Newspaper Guild

In consultation with our International

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Aftermath of layoffs

We lost 14 Guild members over a 2-day period, and almost all of them were duespayers. On Friday we will begin the process of making sure those names are removed from the payroll deduction list. Guild officers also have begun to dissect the layoff list to check it against seniority guidelines as outlined by our contract, and to ensure that severance is paid out without any tricks or traps.

I want to personally express my condolences to those who were terminated. Some, I got to say goodbye to over the phone or in person today. Others, I did not. Those who are “left behind” are at a loss to come to grips with the unnecessary cuts and at the same time are skeptical of our own future. No matter what excellence we produce journalistically, anyone’s number could come up the next time corporate wants to slash payroll.

I also want to again publicly express my dismay that James Keough, VP of HR, on this day of all days, asked me this afternoon when the Guild was ready to resume negotiations. I told him we are in a state of shock; our contract bargaining team took a hit. We lost news researcher Sylvia Halladay, who was a devoted, dutiful, irreplaceable record-keeper whose meticulous notes kept management accountable for over five years. Her attention to detail made her an absolutely top-notch Guild secretary. She was also a vital secretary on the contract negotiation team, and we cannot continue until we find a replacement. Holding an election fror Syl’s replacement will be an even more burdensome task as we lost Renee Petrina, an up-and-coming Guild member who co-coordinated our June 30 contract vote so ably; and Michelle Watson, a steward, was the E-inkling and print Inkling copy editor and yet another wise hand who attended EVERY bargaining session during contract talks and was committed to making the Star a great workplace.

We’ll have more in coming days as we try to make adjustments. Wishing everybody the best —

Tom Spalding
Guild president

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