Parties agree on buyout offer

The Guild and Company agreed Friday on the details of an official buyout offer to be made available to members. Under the contract, buyout offers must be approved by the membership. A vote will be scheduled for later in the week.

The offer is largely along the lines the Guild had proposed, with enhanced health insurance for long-term employees. People taking the buyout will get severance pay as outlined in the contract (generally, two weeks for each year of service). They will get the same number of weeks health insurance as they get severance, with a guaranteed minimum of coverage through the end of the year.

In other words, an employee with 20 years of service would get 40 weeks’ pay and 40 weeks of health care. An employee with 25 years of experience would get 50 weeks’ pay and 50 weeks’ health insurance.

Workers would pay their share of health-care costs, the amount deducted weekly from their checks. If the coverage went into 2010, they would have to pay the first $750 of health-care  costs under the upfront deductible.

People who take the buyout would be eligible for unemployment. They would have access to clips.

One final question that needs to be answered is what happens to people who now take a health-insurance buyout. The Guild has proposed that those employees should get the buyout for 2009 and a fraction of the buyout for 2010 based on how many weeks of coverage they get.

Once we have an agreement on that, the Guild will schedule a vote in one of the executive conference rooms. If it is approved — and we’re confident it will be — people will have until April 15 to apply, and they would be let go later that month. Buyouts will occur before anyone is laid off, Publisher George Hearst said Friday.

The Guild gave the Company 17 names Friday of people who expressed interest in a buyout, with seven each from editorial and advertising and the rest from other departments. Those folks and any others interested in the formal offer now on the table would have to apply.

“The Guild is proud that our insistence in pushing for voluntary buyouts will lessen the number of people laid off,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “Some of our colleagues will get to keep their jobs because we stood up for them.”

We’ll provide more details as soon as a vote is scheduled.


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