Guild provides new comprehensive proposal

The Guild’s Bargaining Team provided a new comprehensive package proposal Friday. (We’re having a little trouble getting it to link for you.)

The union did exactly what the Company had done a day before. After an extensive discussion on outsourcing and seniority protections during layoffs, the Company gave the Guild two proposals that were exactly the same as their earlier language except they both gave the union the right to come chat about the issues.

The Company could still outsource any and all jobs. Even if the union came up with a plan to do the same work in-house for the same price (or less), the Company could still lay you off and send your job elsewhere.

The Company could still pick and choose which employees to lay off, regardless of how long and loyal their service. And the additional language would only allow the Guild to appeal to the publisher (who would, of course, feel the need to back his own managers) and to hear the reasons for the Company’s decisions without having any recourse to respond.

So the Guild’s answer was to tweak its own language in the exact same fashion: We added clauses on both issues that said if the Company wants to talk about outsourcing work beyond what we already proposed to allow, its leaders could come to the Guild and talk about it but no further outsourcing could be done without the union’s consent.

And we added a phrase saying the final decision on any layoffs would rest with the publisher, but they’d still have to be done by reverse order of seniority by job title. (We’ve moved off the current language that says seniority by department.)

The Company’s reaction was almost comical: When it made the exact same move, it called it progressive and an attempt to move the discussion forward. When we did it, it was called handing over the exact same proposal.

The Guild was especially disappointed because the two sides had fruitful discussions the day before that focused on exempting employees with specific skills. (The burden would be on the Company to demonstrate the employees had such skills, and the Guild could take cases to arbitration.) There were discussions about paying employees laid off out of seniority additional severance and benefits and capping the number of people who could be cut out of seniority.

In putting its proposal forth, the Company ignored all of those discussions.

The parties are not scheduled to formally meet next week, as International Rep. Jim Schaufenbil is tied up in Erie, Pa. Guild President Tim O’Brien suggested it might be more effective a use of time if the Company had any proposals to e-mail them to the bargaining team. The team could then either ask to meet face to face with the Company to discuss them or e-mail a response back.

“We hope to continue talking next week,” O’Brien said. “But we think exchanges of proposals by e-mail might be more productive than sitting in the conference room waiting for proposals to be decided upon, written and copied especially if the Company continues its go-slow approach to any movement from its side.”

The parties are committed to meeting April 7-10, and the Guild bargainers have said they’d even be willing to meet that Saturday if the talks were fruitful.

Guild leaders also must spend time next week gearing up for the possible cancellation of the contract on April 9. The union is working with lawyers on legal strategy, but also putting together an alternative dues collection system so it is in place before April 9. We also have been working to mobilize our members and supporters from other unions in the Capital Region.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to spend time away from crafting bargaining proposals to prepare for boycotts and picketing, but we are left no choice,” O’Brien said. “And we will be quite ready to do whatever is necessary on behalf of our members.”

Schaufenbil told the Company that cancelling the contract could cost both sides hundreds of thousands of dollars, an unwise move under current conditions.

3 thoughts on “Guild provides new comprehensive proposal

  1. It doesn’t surprise me that the company’s bargainers just moved about the words without changing the intent of the proposed contract language. Isn’t that what lawyers do? We’ve always bargained with local company reps at the table. They understand what’s going on here in the Capital Region because they live and work here. Outsourcing bargaining work is like outsourcing our work. The strangers have no idea what is really happening in Albany.

  2. “And we added a phrase saying the final decision on any layoffs would rest with the publisher, but they’d still have to be done by reverse order of seniority by job title. (We’ve moved off the current language that says seniority by department.)”

    Where did the idea come from to lay off according to job title? Did it originate with the company? Or the Guild?

    • It was the Guild that conceded by proposing to change the language from “by department” to “by job title.” The reason is this: If layoffs had to be done by department, it might mean too many people in one position get cut in order to reach other positons. For example, four of the last five hires in editorial are reporters. If the Company wanted to cut, say, a page designer job, the current language would require all the reporters to be let go first. The Company could then rehire however many laid-off reporters it had always wanted to keep.

      If this sounds illogical, well, it seemed that way to us too. We thought we were being reasonable by agreeing to change the language. The Company’s reaction? You’ll only be reasonable when you agree to everything we want.

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