It’s hard to know where to begin to describe Wednesday’s bargaining session with the Company, which came after nine people were walked to the door this week and the TU has said another four will be similarly targeted.
The Company continued to insist these were not layoffs, despite Editor Rex Smith’s unequivocal remarks to dozens of people in the newsroom (where most of the layoffs occurred) and the Times Union’s own story — vetted by at least one manager — that called the actions layoffs.
The TU claims that the employees are on paid leave for 45 days while the Company continues to negotiate with the union. If the criteria somehow changes, they contend, people could get their jobs back.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for a company to pretend it is bargaining with us and execute a plan,” International Representative Jim Schaufenbil told the company’s bargainers. “The cloak of ‘technically’ being on paid leave as the newspaper continues ongoing negotiations with the union is a farce.”
Since the Company is claiming these employees are not laid off, he said, the TU cannot then claim that the 45-day notice clause has been invoked. “You can’t have it both ways,” Schaufenbil said.
“You can, actually,” was the Company negotiator’s reply.
Schaufenbil said it was particularly deplorable that the Company brought in extra Wackenhut guards, stationing them in the hallway and outside the Human Resources Department and then marched employees into that office. “The audacity in which the Company carried it out and the lack of respect for individuals, escorting them out of the building with guards, just blows my mind,” he said. “I cannot think of another newspaper who has treated employees so poorly in a layoff situation.”
The Company also Wednesday added a job title in advertising to the list of those where employees could be laid off outside seniority. In other words, a worker who thought his or her job was safe is about to find out otherwise.
Of the 13 people targeted for job cuts, the Company contended all but two were outside seniority.
A week after getting an information request from the union on its proposed criteria — which the Company had used to frogmarch employees out the door — the Company let union leaders sit waiting in a conference room all day while they collected the reviews they had done of each employee using that criteria. They did not produce the first set of rankings until after 3 p.m., and most of them, the ones done in editorial, were not produced until after 5 p.m.
And in the end, they still hadn’t produce everything. And despite ranking editorial employees, those reviews were then funneled through a list of six other criteria (from versatility to market demands) to come up with the final layoff list. Oddly, the Company had no record of how the final conclusions on who to let go were reached.
“They did it orally but there is no record of it,” attorney Mark Batten said.
In addition, the Company’s attorney said the “standards” mentioned repeatedly in the Company’s reviews of editorial employees were never written down, never negotiated with the Guild and never formally communicated to employees yet they were used to target people for losing their jobs.
The Guild will take time to review those documents to make sure they are complete. (Mike Jarboe, who was sitting in to take notes for Mary Fultz, found his own review was left out.)
The documents revealed that the Company performed most of the employee reviews in editorial on June 9, before the TU declared impasse or began negotiating the criteria for layoffs.
“It is increasingly clear the Times Union has failed to bargain in good faith and that the newspaper’s bosses developed and executed criteria for layoffs without even beginning to negotiate it,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said.
The parties are next scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 22. Company bargainers — who are more concerned with meeting than providing information — pretended to be outraged the union won’t meet before then, but O’Brien will be tied up next week providing a sworn affidavit to the National Labor Relations Board over the Company’s illegal declaration of impasse. The union also needs time to examine the files it was handed and to compare them to the employee’s past performance reviews.