Guild wins added pay for laid-off worker

The Newspaper Guild negotiated five extra weeks of severance pay for a laid-off maintenance worker after the Times Union failed to follow its imposed rules that a buyout must be offered first.

The maintenance employee was laid off last Monday, March 21. Guild President Tim O’Brien informed the company it had failed to abide by the rules it imposed that the union be notified 45 days in advance of any layoff and that the Guild be given a chance to negotiate a buyout first.

While there was a buyout negotiated last year, the union produced documents that showed the company had repeatedly said those buyouts were targeted at specific employees: district managers, advertising art/marketing workers and the Web desk.

“Those buyout negotiations cannot be the basis for layoffs in other areas,” O’Brien said. “If there are to be further job cuts, the company must give the union 45 days’ notice and bargain a new buyout package with us. We always prefer to see people leave voluntarily rather than be forced out.”

In discussing the matter, the Guild also knew it would be difficult to expect the laid-off maintenance worker to come back to work while the parties negotiated, only to be laid off again. So the Guild calculated what the employee likely would have received if the company had followed its own rules: nine weeks pay while the parties negotiated and 15 weeks pay (three weeks per year of service) for a buyout. The company had offered 19 weeks’ pay and health insurance (or equivalent pay) for the same period.

The company agreed to offer the 24 weeks’ pay and health care coverage, and the matter was settled without serving as an official, legal precedent for either side.

“While we are always sorry to see a colleague lose a job, we are glad we could bargain 5 weeks of additional pay for him,” O’Brien said. “And we are grateful the company agreed that was the right thing to do.”

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