Category Archives: Ongoing Issues

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

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Cell phone update

The Guild and Star management have been in back-and-forth discussion to develop a cell-phone policy to resolve a grievance we filed so staffers – primarily reporters – are provided with the tools to do their jobs. Some of you have been supplied company cell phones – a practice the Star is doing away with in exchange for providing a subsidy. The company intends to increase the number of staffers who receive a subsidy, but that will mean reduced amounts for those who already receive them. We are requesting the financials before any plan is agreed to so we can update our members on the overall impact.

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Guild intervenes on improper scheduling

During the December 18 meeting, the Guild also brought to management’s attention a problem with the scheduling for a Guild member. This full-time employee, who works a five-day, 40-hour schedule in the newsroom, had been scheduled by his manager to work 40 hours over six days. The reason given was another employee was on vacation and the manager needed this person to work six days. In addition, the schedule hadn’t been posted until three days before the start of the work week.

We immediately contacted editor Dennis Ryerson. Management resolved the situation without the Guild having to file a grievance. They conceded that the contract calls for full-time employees to be scheduled to work 40 hours either with 5-day, 8-hour schedules or 4-day, 10-hour schedules. If an employee is needed to work on an additional day, overtime is paid. The contract does not allow the company to schedule your 40 hours over six days with no overtime because it is shorthanded.

While our contract has no provisions for the timely posting of work schedules, it does address other aspects of scheduling. It states “Days off shall be regular and consecutive, subject to change on two weeks’ notice or by mutual consent.” This means if your supervisor wants to change your days off, if you are told two weeks in advance the supervisor can do it. Less than two weeks’ notice and it is up to you whether you want to make the change. Clearly, the instance of the schedule being posted three days before the start of the work week with changes to the employee’s regular days off was a violation of our contract.

It also states “Hours of work shall be regular and shifts will not be changed except on one week’s notice, by mutual consent, or in instances of emergency.” This means if your supervisor wants to change the hours you work during your shift, if you are told one week in advance the supervisor can do it. Less than one week and it is up to you whether you want to make the change, except in an emergency. Someone else being on vacation hardly qualifies as an emergency. Again, the instance of the schedule being posted three days before the start of the work week with changes to the hours this employee was to work was a contract violation.

If you are having problems with your schedule being posted in a timely manner or if your days off or work hours are being changed on short notice, contact a Guild officer or steward.

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A year of working to represent Guild members

These are some of the issues and problems the Guild has dealt with over the past year, along with some of its accomplishments:

+ In March the Guild filed a grievance over the hiring of a so-called “casual” employee to work as a copy editor in the newsroom. In addition to receiving no benefits, this “casual” employee was not going to have a regular work schedule, instead being called to come in to work whenever needed. The problem is there is no “casual” employee category in our contract. There are full-time, part-time and temporary employees – and they all must have regular schedules. The Guild won the grievance when the company reversed its decision to hire “casual” employees. In addition, the “casual” employee involved was eventually hired as a part-time employee, and now receives the pro-rated vacation and sick time benefits called for by our contract.

+ The Guild intervened in a disciplinary hearing against a veteran employee who had been written up for insubordination and threatened with dismissal if he ever again engaged in the specific behavior. The Guild had two objections – there was no real “performance improvement” plan outlined in the employee’s warning and there was no time limit for the improvement as required by our contract. The resolution was a letter created for the employee’s file that noted his remorse and a commitment to improve in the future and the threat he would be fired if he ever did it again was rescinded.

+ The Guild contacted editor Dennis Ryerson before filing a grievance about a situation in which an employee was working during vacation to update an IndyStar.com blog and to file stories for The Star on an out-of-state event. There was a quick resolution: The department and managers involved were told not to let this happen again – the company shouldn’t require or allow employees to work for The Star or IndyStar.com during their vacations — and the employee was reimbursed for his time.

+ The Guild held its annual “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” event in June. About 50 Guild members and their families attended the Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field on June 22 with tickets furnished by the Guild.

+ The Guild sponsored a co-ed softball team – open to all Star employees and family members whether they are represented by the Guild or not — after the company chose not to contribute any money to sponsor a team. The team even received a mention in one of then-publisher Barbara Henry’s daily notes to employees. However, Henry didn’t mention “The Star’s softball team” was sponsored by the Guild with no financial support from the company, leaving the impression it was the company that was sponsoring the activity.

+ The Guild intervened several times over many months to resolve a situation in which a reporter in the metro department agreed to temporarily take on the additional responsibility filling in as a night editor, a position not covered by the Guild contract. The temporary role became a regular 4 p.m.-midnight job for this staffer. Finally, in mid-September, this employee received a check for $4,300 as compensation for working above classification. In addition, the employee received assurance she would receive an $80 per week differential for working as the night editor from then on. The temporary assignment has since ended and the employee has returned to her job of reporter.

+ The Guild helped a new part-time employee receive the benefits he is eligible for under our contract. Part-time employees who work less than 30 hours per week are not eligible for some benefits, primarily the health insurance programs. But they are eligible for others. When the employee was hired, he was told about his pay and work hours but nothing else. When asked, the employee’s supervisors said they didn’t know if he was entitled to any benefits. It took several weeks and repeated contacts of HR by Guild officers, but the employee was finally informed of his pro-rated time off for vacation, sick time, jury duty and bereavement – all required by our contract. If you are a part-time employee and have questions about the benefits you are eligible to receive, contact a Guild officer or steward.

+ The Guild distributed its annual holiday Kroger gift cards to employees downtown, the zones and the PPC. All dues payers received $25 gift cards. About 30 Guild members, along with all the Guild officers, as well as ex-staffers Rebecca Neal and Matt Gonzales donated their gift cards to the 10 dues-paying Guild members who were laid off Dec. 3. Each of the 10 laid-off employees received $100 in gift certificates.

+ The Guild added 33 dues-paying members over the past year. They came from every section of the newsroom, the zones, and building services. They included new hires and long-time employees who just hadn’t gotten around to joining. The officers want to thank all of you who have stepped up to support the Guild with the money from your dues.

+ The Guild added four stewards to represent our members. Leon Ward, who was on the negotiating committee for our last contract, is our steward at the PPC. Michael Pointer, a sports reporter, is our steward in the South Zone. Michelle Watson, a news copy editor, and Adam Yates, an online content editor, are stewards who are available in the newsroom for those who work nights and weekends. All of our stewards are on this year’s contract negotiating committee, have worked to recruit new dues-paying members and are available to answer questions for members.

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