No names, numbers on layoffs this week

There will be no names or numbers on layoffs this week.

In most departments, the Company said layoffs would be done in reverse order of seniority. Exceptions would be made for almost all of editorial as well as for advertising artists and marketing media specialists.

The Company must negotiate the criteria first before it can announce the names of people who will be laid off, but department managers all said they had done a “test run” of their criteria by applying it to individual names. In other words, they’ve got their lists but want to go through the motions of appearing to negotiate.

The Company also said it would accept further buyout applications if anyone wanted to step forward. It also said it would reconsider at least some of the four buyout applications from Guild members it rejected.

In a moment, we’ll share with you the Company’s documents outlining what they said would be the criteria for layoffs for each of 11 job titles. We had thorough discussions of all of them that ended after 6 p.m.  Tomorrow, Guild President Tim O’Brien will be on leave and will work out a schedule for people in those job categories to meet and discuss the proposed criteria with Guild leaders.

The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 1. The company contended today’s meeting started the 45-day clock on layoff notices, meaning that employees would be let go effective Monday, Aug. 10. The Guild believes the 45-day notice begins when a list of employee names is produced.

For the titles of advertising artist and marketing media specialist, the list of eight criteria is identical. In these two instances, the Company said it would rank employees in each of the first seven areas with a score of one to three. It would then add up the scores. In the event of a tie between workers, seniority would then be used to decide who stays and who goes.

In editorial, the Times Union produced an 18-page document that was riddled with typos, punctuation errors, missing words, and words in nonsense order. O’Brien called it “an excellent example of why you need content editors.” He said it was stunning to realize the people responsible for presenting such a document would be judging others’ performances.

Sample question: “Arre the reporter’s language skills — spelling, grammar and vovabulary — sufficient?”

Fortunately for you, the document was e-mailed to the Guild as nine different two-page documents, one for each of the affected job titles. We’ll share those in a second. Now we’re going to try to explain to you how the Company would use this form.

(You might want to get a couple of Tylenol and a glass of water ready.)

First, it would use the two-page questionnaire to evaluate each employee, with employees rated by a score of zero, one or two points for each answer. A zero would mean an employee doesn’t meet expectations, a one would mean the worker meets expectations and a 2 would mean the employee exceeds expectations.

Different questions would be weighted differently, again on a scale of 1 to 3. For example, the answer to the question “Does the reporter’s work regularly make it to the front page and section front positions?” would be weighted with a factor of two. The employee’s score would be the points multipled by the weighting. (An employee who meets expectations for getting work out front would get a score of 1 times 2 or 2.)

In another example, the question “Is the reporter reliable or punctual?” would have a weight of 1. So an employee who met that criteria would get a score of 1 times 1.)

(Hey, don’t blame us. We didn’t come up with this system.)

But that’s unfortunately not it. The Company would then use your score on the evaluation and apply it to six other areas to make a final decision.

We realize if you’re not confused by now, there is either something wrong with you or you have a great future in management. This is why we will schedule meetings with individual groups. There is only so much clarity you can provide in a blog, and at this hour after a long day, we’re not entirely sure we’re up to the task.

But before we go, here is the last bit of information we’d like to share with you. These are the nine editorial titles and the two-page questionnaires the Company proposed for each:

And the Company said on the reporter evaluation form, it gave the wrong numbers (and in one instance no number) for the weight factors. The first four factors on page one of the reporter form are supposed to have a weight factor of 2. The top factor on the second page is supposed to have a factor of 3, and the second question is supposed to have a weight factor of 2.

27 thoughts on “No names, numbers on layoffs this week

  1. My heart goes out to all my friends at the Times Union, what a horrible position to have to be in. Hang in there, knowing my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. i’m speechless. after a week of stressing over this announcement we still have no idea who they intend to layoff. thanks a lot mr. hearst.

  3. “… department managers all said they had done a “test run” of their criteria by applying it to individual names.”

    What does this mean?

    I understand it is probably nonsensical, but please attempt to elaborate.

    • Somewhere around Barstow: It means they said they used their criteria to evaluate every employee, before they ever met with the Guild to negotiate the criteria they’re supposed to use to evaluate every employee. But they’re claiming those evaluations are “a test run” because, of course, they would never decide who they want to lay off without having gone through the motions of negotiations.

  4. This is complete garbage. I’ve worked for several different newspaper companies, and this is by far the worst managed one. Some of us left good jobs to come here, because it seemed like a real opportunity. What a mistake. Remember how Mr. Hearst said he wasn’t in favor of pay cuts because those who remained in his employ would be asked to work harder? Not an ounce more, Mr. Hearst. Take that to the bank.

  5. Thank you for keeping us updated. I’m eager for more information, too.

    I really feel like they’re not going to give you any names until they’ve shown people the door (or maybe while they are), and that’s why they’re dragging their heels. They clearly know who they want to get rid of. Every step of this has been so badly handled, leaving people worried and anxious with next to no information while they’re trying hard to do their jobs.

    What a terrible thing to put everyone through. It’s been hard to concentrate today, and there won’t be any relief soon.

  6. The Company for which we work has no decency. It’s either figuring out its exit strategy as it goes along (how shameful to say it would let the Guild know which members would be laid off, and then not do so), or it has the heart of a worm. One question: By “starting the 45-day clock” by informing the Guild of layoffs but not providing names, does this mean the company is trying to weasel out of paying employees 45 days’ pay as required under Section 3C of the contract, which states, “In lieu of notice to the employee fourty five days pay shall be given”?

    How small and unjust that would be.

  7. Hey Tim: Please let me know where and when any futures actions are scheduled. I know there are a lot of us former TU-ers out here who have been helped by the Guild. Now, as readers we’re not anxious to see any newsroom positions lost. Take care, Jane

    • One quick thing you and anyone else concerned can do: Call Publisher George Hearst at 454-5555 and let him know what you think.

  8. Just imagine what Boy George and his Culture Club would say if we did our jobs in the shoddy fashion in which the company is “negotiating.”
    Our jobs depend on making deadlines that Mr. Hearst and his “management team” impose. So why can’t they meet the timetable they promised us for releasing the layoff list?
    The company is big on its so-called “business model.” A business mismanagement model is more like it.
    Oh, I forgot. You make the rules as you want to, when you want to.
    I fully expect Dean Wormer to put us all on double secret probation. It’s that ridiculous.

  9. I wish they would pull off the band-aid already. I would like to get on with my life. I never thought I would say this, but it has become a very crappy place to work.

  10. From reading this, it seems apparent that the newsroom was being targeted since the outset, despite what everyone has always said. Probably the major target. Good to know our managers have already “rated” us. Way to let people know how they can “improve” their “performance.”
    For the life of me, I cannot understand why George’s lawyers and puppetmasters are making him do things this way. Some day there will be business management textbooks that will use this as an example of how to bungle a situation in every possible way.

  11. It is soooooo shortsighted of this mismanagement team if they do not value their senior journalists. These loyal and intelligent workers have tremendous institutional memory. They know the history of the people making news, or are about to make news, in the Capital Region. They know when people are B.S.ing them! Furthermore, these journalists have established relationships and trust with members of our community. They can get the story that no one else can get. These valuable employees also serve as mentors for the next generation of journalists, such as our Hearst Fellows.

  12. On Edge:

    You got all that right. This has been nauseating from the beginning. And now we have the charade of managers rating people (in many cases managers who do not know what we do, or can’t do the job themselves) when if memory serves George said months ago he already knew who was being let go. Don’t we already have performance reviews on file? What happened to them? Won’t it be strange if someone has great reviews and then has lackluster marks on this sham of a grade-school marking system?

    So we wait two more weeks or so after being told a list would be produced. Oh, wait…there is no list! Of course there is a list. We just need a sadly transparent exercise in butt-covering to be finished.

    Great. If these people want us out, just give us our checks and let us commence our lawsuits, and get it over with. There is not a circle of hell deep enough for subhumans who do things like this. I guess our satisfaction will be in seeing this enterprise run the rest of the way into the ground.

  13. Why doesn’t the company ask “can this person’s job responsibilities be reasonably absorbed by another employee?”
    This, to me, seems the most pertinent question. Tim?

  14. It’s amazing. There are tasks on those grids that we were never be asked to do or shown how to do. There are vital tasks that we do every day (which save the paper from embarrassment) that aren’t on the grid.

    And it sounds like all of the cuts are coming to the worker bees and none to the team leaders who are gone before the copy comes in and has to be edited, leaving plenty of people to write memos in the morning about what was wrong.

  15. George Hearst blabs to the Gazette he has the list. His panic-stricken lawyers call him up and tell him he’ll get sued over that. Presto! Now he has no list. I used to think George had it together. Now I’m getting the impression he’s another vapid heirhead… a Paris Hilton without the tan. Or the honesty.

  16. ….sounds like he didn’t like what he heard when the Guild told him they would disclose the names….So, he bumps the meeting time (from 11 to 1), probably to consult with lawyers….then uses the extra time to have management quickly sketch the BS guidelines (hence all the errors)…so, now, he thinks his bases are covered. He thinks he doesn’t have to tell anyone a thing until his security guards are ushering them to their cars – and he won’t! Think about it – do they really want 40 or so pissed off, laid off people sitting in their office for 45 days?? You can’t bargain with these people in good faith because they are a bunch of bold face liars who will never be truthful about anything…someone should go blab their story to the Gazette; detailing what they’ve been through since the new year…right up until end-of-day yesterday! I’m sure everyone was (and still is) going through hell. For obvious reasons, I can’t exactly say I like my job at this place any more….I hope they run the paper into the ground.

  17. ….sounds like he didn’t like what he heard when the Guild told him they would disclose the names….So, he bumps the meeting time (from 11 to 1), probably to consult with lawyers….then uses the extra time to have management quickly sketch the BS guidelines (hence all the errors)…so, now, he thinks his bases are covered. He thinks he doesn’t have to tell anyone a thing until his security guards are ushering them to their cars – and he won’t! Think about it – do they really want 40 or so pissed off, laid off people sitting in their office for 45 days?? You can’t bargain with these people in good faith because they are a bunch of bold face liars who will never be truthful about anything…someone should go blab their story to the Gazette; detailing what they’ve been through since the new year…right up until end-of-day yesterday! I’m sure everyone was (and still is) going through hell. For obvious reasons, I can’t exactly say I like my job at this place any more….

  18. The measures are actually fairly reasonable. It’s the “weight factor” that shows the true intent: if you are grumpy or technologically impaired (old), you are a target. Even if you are skilled at what you do, the “weight” of the techno, video and courteous factors put you at the top of the hit list.

    There is no consistency among the “weight factors.”

    Does the employee meet deadline standards? That’s worth a multiple of 2 for a NIS Associate or reporter, but a 3 for Content editor and Photographer.

    Productivity? Multiply by 3 for a photographer, 2 for Content editor, and 1 for Wire editors and reporters.

    Courteous and tactful to colleagues and the public? That’s a factor of 1 for reporters and a 2 for photographers, but doesn’t even make the list for content editors. I suppose if courteous and tactful were a job requirement for content editors, there would be no job candidates. Just proves that you don’t have to be nice to get your job done. I’d argue that applies to reporters and photographers, too.

    You are deep trouble if you didn’t get chosen for video training. Many staffers wanted training but were never selected. How can that be held against anybody?

    Strip away the weight factors and these measures are reasonably fair. Using mathematics to make firing decisions is painful to both managers and employees, and it will be legally challenged. Why not stick to the numbers we already have? … Hire #1 to Hire #200. That’s painful, but it’s fair and it won’t result in a lawsuit.

    Or even better, why not train everyone to make videos and teach supervisors to better manage employees’ productivity and job skills whether an employee is grumpy or sweet?

    Don’t fire us. Invest in us and maybe this business will have a future.

  19. Of course the company has known all along who it wants to fire. That’s why it never bargained over the issue. There were people it wanted gone, and it wasn’t going to let that pesky union get in its way.

  20. to Drudge: good point, kind of. But if Anyone left can’t 100% take up the slack for those who are picked off, then mngmt. will just outsource them, remember?

  21. In my Hearst position, I did notice that it was not a factor of “niceness” that mattered. The bully remains, the worker bee does not.

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