Off-the-record talks on contract prove fruitless

For the past several months, the Guild has been quietly meeting with the Company in the hope of bringing to an end the years of stalled negotiations and to finally get employees the long overdue raises they deserve.

For legal reasons, the talks have remained off the record – which means their contents cannot be disclosed – to avoid the possibility of the Company being able to impose a new set of changes.

On Thursday, it became clear that those talks, despite the Guild’s best efforts, would not yield an acceptable agreement at this time. No further talks are currently scheduled.

Guild President Tim O’Brien was joined in the talks by Treasurer Marianne Mahr, Chief Steward Brian Nearing and International Representative Jim Schaufenbil.

“We have been and continue to be willing to offer flexibility on the issues of out-of-seniority layoffs and outsourcing,” O’Brien said. “We have offered all kinds of compromises. But our members deserve and need a say in such decisions.”

At a time when the Chicago Sun-Times saw fit to lay off every photographer, and when ad sales people are understandably nervous about Local Edge encroaching on sales, it would make no sense to surrender bargaining rights on outsourcing.

Likewise, the Guild was and is willing to offer flexibility in layoffs. We even would be willing to explore the idea of laying off out of seniority in return for enhanced severance for those who would suffer a pension hit. Unfortunately, under the law, if you agree to such a change, the Company could come to the table at the next negotiations, say it wants to keep the ability to lay off whomever it pleases but eliminate the enhanced severance. The Company could then legally impose that change. It cannot legally impose giving itself unfettered rights to lay off anyone without members’ consent now.

“Our members continue to be better off under the imposed conditions,” O’Brien said. “We remain willing to talk whenever the Company is willing to be flexible, and our members remain deserving of raises they have been denied for far too long.”

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