Congrats on the baby, but no back sick time for you

With Melissa Nelson back at the bargaining table today, the Company got a good history lesson.

She reminded the Company where the letter came from that outlines the policy on allowing employees to recapture unused sick leave when seriously ill. (The Company has said it may seek to end the practice.)

Back in the late 1980s, Melissa was among a group of pregnant employees. Some were allowed to use back sick time, and one woman was declined. The Guild filed a grievance, which resulted in the letter still in the contract today spelling out the practice to allow unused back sick time to be used when people are on a long-term illness.

Ironically, the Company’s threat to end the practice comes when several Guild members are pregnant (and one just had twins), as the Company has noted on its internal Web site. Congratulations on the baby, but you can’t use back sick time: That’s a helluva of a family-unfriendly message to send.

Melissa also reminded the Company why we have language that requires layoffs to be in reverse order of seniority — another bit of language the Times Union bosses want to eliminate. Under former Publisher Tim White, she noted, the Company first put out a seniority list and then a layoff list that skipped over some newly hired employees.

Current Local President Tim O’Brien recalled that the Company refused to tell people where they stood on its layoff list and insisted the union do it. O’Brien recalled how horrified one fairly recent hire was to be told he was skipped. “How do I go back and face my friends?” he asked.

As a result of that horrible experience, both sides decided that it was in everyone’s best interest to make sure that never happened again. It’s a lesson that should not be lost in time.

The parties also began a discussion on exempt titles that will resume when negotiations start at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Executive Conference Room. Members may attend on their own time.

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