Seniority is not the only issue (updated)
The Company’s communications and some recent discussions in the building might lead you to believe that seniority is the only outstanding issue in these contract negotiations.
That’s not nearly the case. Here’s a look at some of the other awful things the Company wants to do:
- Be able to lay employees off and outsource their jobs.
In editorial, an editor recently traveled to Houston and was laying out pages from there, testing the system. The Company wants to eliminate the jobs of page designers and have that work done in Texas. Editorial and advertising artists, people who take calls in Circulation and Advertising, features reporters, people in our business office, all these jobs will be at risk and likely gone in no time if they are given that language.
- No raises for three years but an increase of $648 a year in health-care costs come January. And that’s if they don’t raise the deductible too.
The Company proposes to hike your share of health care from 16 percent to 25 percent on January 1. It also wants to wipe out the language requiring any new health insurance plan to be “comparable” and be able to change your share, both percentage of the cost and the deductible, with no say from you or your union.
- Eliminate the no-pay-cuts clause.
Ever get a merit raise? It could be taken away. Or you could be transferred against your will to a lower pay classification and your pay could then be cut.
The Company wants to focus solely on the seniority issue because they know it’s a sensitive one for those at the bottom of the list. The Company insists it wants to make these decisions solely on quality. We told the Company frankly “You’re ignoring the elephant in the room: Favoritism.” We recited specific cases of people — including some of our best known names — who spent some time in the doghouse at the whim of a boss.
Are there great people at the bottom of the seniority list? Absolutely. We have been fighting to keep as many jobs as possible, offering cost-saving measures and pushing hard to get a buyout offer.
We are not shutting the door on compromises on any of these issues, but don’t let the Company fool you. Seniority is not the only issue.
Has the company given any indication of a time frame for when either the buyouts or layoffs would take effect?
We’ve been told job cuts could start in a few weeks and could be phased in through September. We believe that is because the Company intends to outsource some work (page design) but can’t do it until the system is completely worked out. (An editor from the TU was down in Houston laying out TU pages. Does that tell folks anything?)
There seem to be a lot of younger/newer reporters who believe that siding with the union isn’t in their best interest, because they believe fighting to keep seniority means fighting against their own jobs. But the bigger picture is the company wants most of us gone. We have to fight to keep this a community paper, both to save our jobs and save the quality of the paper. At least buy ourselves some time so that we aren’t all laid off in the middle of a depression. We CANNOT just roll over. We have to protect ourselves and each other.
Outsourcing is the most despicable and unforgivable of all company plans. I can see cost cutting by consolidating, but these are full-time jobs that will still require full-time workers no matter how you cut it. Unless these workers have down time, and from what I can see, they don’t, they are not cutting jobs, just our jobs, and paying lower wages. No wonder they have to cut so many for it to amount to much. I once communicated with someone in Houston. She said they come in early and leave late because there is so much work. I asked “Do you get paid for that?” She didn’t respond. My guess is they get to keep their jobs. Are we going forward or backwards?
Local newspaper? I don’t think so.
It’s time to let us vote on the seniority issue. The results may offer insight.
It is my understanding that we do not — and I think this is the most fair and reasonable approach for many reasons — vote on individual pieces of any contract or proposed agreement without considering the whole package. I’m not confident that I can articulate the reasons for this well, but perhaps another member could explain.
In the meantime, I would like to know more about what insights Worried thinks this vote would offer.