Company’s initial offer is no bargain

Under the Company’s initial offer (page 1, page 2) Tuesday, it could cut your pay and change your days off without your consent, even splitting them so you could have Mondays and Thursdays off. The Company could pile on an unreasonable workload – and then refuse to pay severance when you couldn’t handle it.

Or they could just take your work away from you and hand it to an independent contractor – like they did with Classified Plus. You may recall employees in classified were taken off the phones, the calls went to an independent contractor and the workers were forced to correct the contractor’s mistakes while losing their commissions. (This ended when the Guild intervened, citing that language.)

Oh, and the Company also wants to eliminate seniority protections when it comes to layoffs. Rather than having to let go the least senior people by department, they could pick and choose who they eliminate no matter how long and loyal your service. (This would eliminate the incentive for offering buyouts.)

Sadly, we’re not done. The Company also wants to raise your health insurance premium co-pay from 16 to 25 percent. They want to stop the measly one day’s bonus they give you for never calling in sick. And they want to eliminate the bonus paid to employees who opt out of health insurance coverage if they have other insurance. (That one was just bizarre, because it actually saves the Company money. Go figure.)

The Company also wants to eliminate the bar on reporters working regularly as photographers and photographers working regularly as reporters. (Our photographers are professionals specially trained to do their work.)

The proposal calls for eliminating contract language that has recently helped three different employees. The contract says that the Company cannot change your days off without your consent unless it is necessary for publication. The Company wants to eliminate that protection, but worse: It wants to be able to assign people to work split days off.

It would also remove language, called Section 1(D) that says part-timers and independent contractors cannot be used when they would displace or eliminate a current staff position. That’s important language: It means your work cannot be taken away from you and given to an outside contractor. The Guild spent two years in protracted negotiations over that very issue in the 1990s. Apparently those who forget the past are trying to repeat it.

The Guild’s offer reduces the work week to 35 hours, increases protections from exempt managers doing our work and allows workers to share sick time with a seriously ill colleague.

Workers could also bank up to 25 sick days that could be cashed out at retirement, and we propose adding periodontal and orthodontic coverage. The union also calls for increased vacation time, including an added week at the 15th anniversary.

The union also is proposing increased holidays, including allowing non-Christian employees to get major holidays off without having to take a personal day. It also calls for sufficient staff to maintain the premises and improvements to the condition of the parking lot during rain and ice.

The Guild did not yet propose wage increases, upgrades or commissions. It did propose a longevity bonus of $10 per week for each five years of service.

Employees who use their cell phones for work would be paid $50 a month.

Bargaining continues at 2 p.m. Wednesday and sessions are set for Thursday and Friday. Members can attend on their own time during lunch hours or breaks.


  • Danielle Furfaro

    Looks like we’ve got another long fight ahead of us. They know from experience that we won’t back down. Good work, guild!

  • gloria mazure

    This time it is the company’s turn to acquiesce.

    we need more bizarre, tough proposals to match the company’s so we have stuff to withdraw as they have. Guild proposals are far too nice and realistic.

    If religious holidays should be granted – they should be for everyone — even to be used as float days – with holiday bonus pay for those who work them – as is xmas, birthday etc. which all get. No need to divide people; keep unity and equal benefits.

    4-day work week with longer hours would be more useful than split days off;

    get group cell phone reimbursement for all – after all we can capture news on our cell phone cameras. (current discount does not apply to all plans).

    grandfather agreements – so that if the company want to change the rules it applies only to new hires – not persons who have worked here their entire careers under hard-negotiated contracts, giving up benefits in exchange – benefits now being taken away.

    company should match 401k contributions so people can afford to retire.

    we also need accupuncture added to health plans.

    pay eye care coverage for retirees after years of blowing out our eyeballs on VDT use – who knows what that long-term effect will be of all this insense screen work.

    if they are going to raise our health co-pay – company in exchange has to bridge health insurance until medicare kicks in for workers and retirees.

    Workers should receive share of the profits in money-making years – which all have been for Times Union.

    Agreements which have long-range effect and damage employee benefits should just be for the length of the current contract and need to be reinstated and renegotiated for a new contract.

  • Audrey Lahoff

    Given the recient attitude of management, it is not suprizing the initial company proposal is so outrageous. Keep in mind that just because they ask for something it is up to us to keep them reasonable. Good luck to the bargaining committee and members keep up the support of the team!

  • Familyguy

    I completly agree that this proposal from the company is heartless. You would think
    that after being as successful as we have been in our industry, they would like to continue to be a “step above”. Instead it seems they want to tear everything down and run it into the ground. The “need for change” has been absorbed and embraced by everyone over the years as the industry demands it for survival. The proposal of cutting pay, changing your days off with out consent (including split days off), Giving our work to independants who dont know what they are doing, and eliminating Seniority rights of the people who are the most experienced doesn’t sound like a recipe for survival to me.

    On the Grandfather Agreement suggestion. Although I would qualify as one to be Grandfathered into current benifits, I think this starts a trend of hurting the guys with no say. Good Help is not always easy to find and with bad employment wages, benifits, and security it only gets harder. The Bargaining Committee has to represent the entire Membership as a whole. Although each change doesn’t benifit everyone all the time, at the time it was made it has always been and always will be to the best interest of the membership as a whole. When a hire has been made, they should enjoy the benifits that we have, as we did when we were hired. Then the Union is truely whole.

  • Dan Higgins

    Tim, good luck to you and the rest of the bargaining committee. Seems like you have a long road ahead of you.

    It’s always dispiriting to see the company’s initial offer. Hopefully, the company will realize that there is a financial incentive to have fairly-compensated, happy employees, and that penny pinching and draconian cuts can actually harm the bottom line (ask Journal Register how that strategy is working out for them).

    Don’t forget there are still a few hundred of us who work here and we will be behind you.

  • Worker No. 123

    Thank you for fighting for us. I’m certain that we’d have no protection at all without the union. Please continue to remind the company of how much the people in the trenches contribute to this newspaper’s success, even in tough economic times.

  • Cathy Woodruff

    Well, this is rather discouraging to see, even if it is some sort of opening posture.

    . I know many employees — in the newspaper business in general and the Times Union in particular — already work schedules that are challenging for their personal and family lives. I’d hate to see things go even farther in that direction.

    Also, it seems to me that it’s usually the most dedicated employees who wind up losing their vacation time (this is regarding the use-it-or-lose-it policy) because they hesitate to leave stories undone or leave their departments short-staffed. This policy winds up penalizing some of our newspaper’s most dedicated employees.

    Thanks and good luck to our bargaining teem.

  • Mike Jarboe

    Hi, all:

    I ask everyone to take a close look at a very onerous part of the company proposal…the proposal that would allow the company to split your days off.

    I once heard a manager describe split days off as a great deal, saying that it makes your workweek seem shorter. Well, nonsense, folks. It just isn’t true. Having split days off is a life-changing situation, and the change isn’t for the better. I had split days off at my last job, and so I know firsthand how awful it is.

    Want to go out of town to see your aging parents on your weekend? Forget it. You don’t have a weekend. You have a day off, followed by more work.

    Like to take the kids on a trip to the Finger Lakes? No can do. You can’t go anywhere that is more than a few hours’ drive away. Remember…you have to go to work tomorrow…

    Let’s say you have weekends off. Isn’t it a great feeling when you wake up on Saturday and think that you have the day off, and tomorrow off, too? Forget it with split days off. When you have a day off, you have work to look forward to the next day.

    I want no part of split days off. Having split days off was a major factor in my decision to leave my last job. I hated split days off, and if you get them I bet you will hate them, too.

    As for any company offer that includes a differential for having split days off, I say even $100 a week does not make up for the misery of your “weekend” being Tuesday and Friday.

    Some of you might think this would “only” affect a small segment of the bargaining unit, like copy editors, photographers and district managers. “Only” doesn’t help much if you are one of those affected, so I ask all my brothers and sisters to stand firm that we are NOT INTERESTED in having split days off. Period.

    Thank you all, and a special thanks to the bargaining committee. I have served on two committees here, one in Milwaukee and one many years ago when I was a member of the meatcutters’ union, so I am well aware of what it takes. Thanks for your dedication.
    I hope all our members take time to thank the committee members as the negotiations continue.

  • Dan Higgins

    I had split days off when I worked in radio. It was a meat grinder. I had no life. I nearly forefeitted having a girlfriend who was none to happy with my constant working. I missed my family, whom I could not visit because I never had enough time to drive 300 miles to see them.

    I’m with Mike Jarboe. Don’t listen to the happy talk from the other side of the table. If it’s so great, why don’t they do it? Could you imagine?

    “Hi, you’ve reached Mark Aldam. My work days are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. If it’s Tuesday or Friday, sorry, I’m relaxing!”

    Wow! Lucky guy. Must seem to him like he has a shorter work week.

  • John Runfola

    Dear Guild Brothers and Sisters:
    What’s in it for me?
    That is what all Guild members need to think about when reviewing the company proposal.
    1. No seniority. This is a key issue and is a dagger to the heart of what it means to have a Guild. It hits everyone, not only longtime Guild members. The company wants to pick and choose who to fire. That puts the job of every Guild member at risk at any time. For example, a Guild member with a year on the job could be displaced by a new hire on the job only a week. Have a mortgage and are trying to put roots down in the Capital Region? Forget it. The company change could be used to fire any Guild member who falls out of favor. No buyouts are needed because the company will be able to liquidate any Guild member at any time. Today’s contract protects us all.
    2. Split days off. What a deal! I had split days off when I worked for a tiny daily newspaper. I had Fridays and Sundays off. I was off Sundays only because we were a six-day paper. Social life? Forget it. Ability to travel to see loved ones? No way! I was always tired and starved for rest. I agree with the Jarboe and Higgins views of split days off. Watch out whenever the word “flexibility” is used. We need two days off in a row. We need to work out a system where everyone gets at least a Friday/Saturday or Sunday/Monday off each week.
    3. Higher Health costs! That speaks for itself.
    4. Unspecified job changes under Prometheus. The company expects maximum effort in a time of change, yet what is in it for us?
    5. No pay for no sick days! No health insurance buyout!
    6. No shield against pay cuts!
    It is going to be yet another long haul for Guild members. I urge everyone to support our bargaining team. We need to stand together. We are the Guild.
    John Runfola
    Guild member
    Pension Trustee

  • worker no. 111

    Congratulations to MaryFran Gleason.
    Usually it’s the folks in steerage who first find out the ship is sinking. Does anyone catch the irony that the manager spearheading this new Prometheus newsroom re-org has decided to escape and work for – gasp – a labor union?
    I always knew she was one of the smart ones.
    (Note to Mark and George: Step out of your mansions and discover the world the rest of us – including your top managers – live in.)

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