Demonstrating utter contempt for the law, the Times Union walked nine Guild-covered employees out the door over the past two days. Four more are expected later this week for a total of 13 Guild members laid off.
The Company’s actions come while the parties are supposed to be negotiating layoff criteria, talks that resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Last week, the Guild filed two information requests over the proposed criteria, which the newspaper has yet to answer.
Despite the fact the criteria has not been settled, and despite the fact that the editorial criteria was filled with errors and standards never negotiated with the union, the Company used it to implement layoffs. Under the Company’s own language, it was supposed to negotiate with the Guild for 45 days over the implementation of any layoffs.
The Company is trying to claim the Guild-covered workers are being placed on a 45-day paid leave, at the end of which they would ‘likely’ be laid off unless changes in the criteria are negotiated, in which case they might still have a job.
In discussing the job cuts with several dozen staffers at 5 p.m. Tuesday, however, Editor Rex Smith read off each name, discussed the important contribution they had made to the newspaper and talked repeatedly about “the people who were laid off today” and “the people we lost today,” making crystal clear that this was no “paid leave.” Witnesses said they are willing to testify that Smith left no doubt these workers were laid off.
“We are utterly shocked at the Times Union’s behavior,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “The disregard for the law is stunning. An organization that is devoted to truth-telling lies about placing people on leave, but Rex Smith made quite clear to the entire newsroom these folks were laid off. It’s too late to put that cat back in the bag.”
The Guild questions what these employees are supposed to do. If, as the Company claims, they are not laid off, are they not supposed to look for new jobs? What are they supposed to tell prospective employers: “I am on paid leave but might get my job back?” Can they apply for unemployment when they are not yet officially laid off?
“This is a terrible, grossly unfair way to treat employees, many of whom worked for the newspaper for 10 years or more,” O’Brien said. “We will be amending our charges with the National Labor Relations Board over this latest violation of the law. Clearly this Company has no interest in engaging in any actual bargaining.”