A proposal that would hurt the seriously ill

Guild members came to the bargaining table Thursday with three revamped proposals, but the Company’s only suggestion was it might want to stop allowing seriously ill or injured workers to take advantage of unused back sick time.

Guild President Tim O’Brien noted revoking that policy would not just hurt employees who are on disability. It could unintentionally push some people to decide to take all 10 sick days a year rather than save them in case they are someday needed.

Currently, we are not  able to cash out unused sick time when we retire under the current contract, though the Guild has made a proposal to allow people to bank some hours.

Pressed  by Guild bargainers on the importance of that protection, Company officials said they may make a proposal to alter the simple, single-sentence agreement The letter was signed in 1994, but it memorialized a practice in effect long before then.

The union changed its idea for Community Service Leave, reducing the number of people who could take the leave from 5 in each department to 5 total. The union also specified that the leave could be taken as a single week or one day at a time.

The Company leaders worried that they might have to replace workers for those missing hours, but the union noted they do not replace absent workers now. Guild bargainiers also noted that the total numbers of hours employees lost because they didn’t take vacation they earned in time last year was 1,286.75 — equal to 171.57 days of work. The result: The Company is gaining more in hours than it would ever lose by letting people assist in the community.

The union also revamped its proposal on interns, asking only that the union be provided information about how many interns there are, where they would work, what they would do and what their compensation would be. The union welcomes the ability to mentor potential future colleagues, but internships should be of limited duration and not used to replace or displace existing staff positions.

The final change was to a proposal to allow Jewish and Muslim employees to take their holiest days off a year without having to take personal days. As the Company had suggested, we made the proposal specific as to the days.

The parties also went through each of the side letters at the back of the contract, discussing which ones are still needed.

The parties will bargain again from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, July 31. The two bargaining teams also agreed on subsequent dates: all day Aug. 18 and 19, 2-5 p.m. Sept. 3, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 4, all day Sept. 9, 2-5 p.m. Sept. 10 and 2-5 p.m. September 24.

Employees can attend the sessions on their own time.


  • JiNX-01

    I was hospitalized for more than a week a few years ago and had to continue my recovery at home after I was released. In the meantime, the paperwork for my disability claim was not exactly submitted in a timely manner by my HMO. In fact, I had to light a fire under them after I recovered.

    I got my check a couple of weeks after I returned to work. It was just over $700. I had been out for more than a month.

    What saved me was the weekly automatic deposit of my banked sick leave pay. Even if I had been getting the disability checks, without that money, I would have been in a lot of trouble.

    Sick days are a great benefit. And we can burn them up on an annual basis for “mental health days” or taking our kids to the park on a lovely spring day, or we can come to work knowing that the people in the executive suite at the Times Union will let us continue to take care of business at home, at what can too often be the worst time of our lives.

  • Sick about sick days

    I agree that if there is no reason so save the days for a POSSIBLE future use, then I would probably start using them at the first sign of a stuffy nose or for the slightest headache. Many more sick days will be utilized. And, they don’t want to give you the one day’s pay for not using any? Forget it. The 5 people out for 5 days to do volunteer work will be nothing compared to all the people taking sick days.

  • Mike Jarboe

    I don’t use a whole lot of sick days. I took a total of four last year despite having two operations. Most years I only take one or two. One of the reasons I don’t take sick days is that I know the burden it places on my colleagues when I don’t come in.

    Another reason, to be honest, is that I suffer from a chronic illness, and it is possible that someday those days might keep me from losing my home. I could not afford my mortgage payment if I were out on disability.

    I hope that never comes to pass, but it is why the banking of sick days for possible use in the case of a long-term health issue is so important to me.

    On a related note, the proposal to take away the one-day bonus for taking no sick days is just bizarre. I have no doubt that puny bonus, which costs the company very little money, actually saves them some bucks in the long run. Some Guild people probably come in when they shouldn’t in order to qualify for it.

    With that gone, as others have said here, what is the incentive to work when you don’t feel well? To make the bosses we share with 1.5 other workers happy?

  • John Runfola

    I have seen Guild colleagues literally fighting for their lives due to cancer, yet come to work. We need to support our Guild colleagues by preserving this sick day benefit. The memory of one colleague in Editorial working almost to the day he died is forever burned in my memory. l believe the Hearst Corp. owes loyal Guild workers something in their time of crisis. It is little enough that unused sick days be used to help people fight serious illness.
    In a Company rich enough to support one manager for every 2.5 Guild workers , I wonder why this issue is even up for talks.
    I have received the sick day bonus several times because I work hard to maintain a balance in my life, including unwinding with family and friends during my two CONSECUTIVE days off. Very few people receive the sick day bonus, but it is a small recognition for showing up to put out a quality newspaper with a reduced staff because of flu outbreaks and any other time others can’t be at the Times Union due to personal circumstances.
    Friends: Stay healthy. Exercise more. Support the Guild. negotiators.

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