Company finally moves on top issues

We’ll give the Company its due. After months of refusing to budge on the top two issues in negotiations, it finally presented new proposals Friday on both outsourcing of work and seniority protections during layoffs.

We’re not saying we’re thrilled with the proposals, but we’re glad to see that they are at least moving off the positions they’ve held since Day 1.

“While we didn’t need the threat of a cancelled contract to prompt us to offer concessions, the potential for boycotts and picketing apparently has inspired the Company to start moving,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “We’re grateful for that, although we are still a long ways apart.”

The Company’s proposal on layoffs would still give them the power to choose whomever they want to discharge. In a case where someone was let go out of seniority order, the publisher would review and approve the decision. The Guild would also be given 45 days’ notice of the decision and would be able to discuss the factors used for selection.

The Company is also still calling for elimination of the rehiring list.

The Company’s attorneys argued that giving the publisher final say would eliminate the element of favoritism raised by the Guild.

“It’s not in the Company’s interest, either, to fire someone because some low-level manager targets them because of union activity or skin color…,” attorney Mark Batten said.

Guild Bargaining Committee member John DeMania said it was doubtful the publisher would want to be seen as reversing the decision of one of his managers. He also might not be familiar with the employee given the demands of his own job.

On the issue of outsourcing, the Company proposed that it would give the union four weeks’ notice of any plans to outsource including specific work to be outsourced, where it will go, and what the other costs and benefits would be compared to keeping the work in-house.

The Guild would have a chance to make an offer to keep the work, but the Company’s proposal does not require that proposal to be accepted.

The union also would be given a chance to discuss how employees might be redeployed. The parties would also work together on attracting work from other newspapers, as is now happening in circulation and advertising.

“We appreciate that the Company has moved,” O’Brien said. “That’s really what we needed to break the logjam. We will study their proposal and provide a counteroffer of our own.”

The Guild’s bargaining team will meet at the union office Friday morning to formulate its response, which will be delivered sometime later in the day.


  • WorkerBee

    I’m not sure how the company has actually moved at all. They’ve just rephrased their demands. Let me get this straight: They can still lay off whomever they want, only now George Hearst has to rubber stamp it first. They can still outsource our work: They just have to tell us they’re doing it so they can turn down our offer first. I hope the bargaining team can see through this ruse.

  • WorkerAnt

    These “concessions” would just add more procedures that the company will just ignore once a contract is approved. Currently the company is supposed to notify the Guild whenever they create a new exempt position so than can discuss with us whether the position should be exempt or not.

    Here is an excerpt from section 1B of the current contract:

    …the Company shall notify the Guild at least two weeks in advance of the establishment of a new supervisory position and the parties shall have a full discussion of the position before it is filled. If the parties are unable to reach agreement on the supervisory status of the position, the union retains its right to submit the matter to the National Labor Relations Board.

    Does the company ever follow this simple procedure laid out by the contract? No, they don’t.

  • Ray Pitlyk

    The new company proposals on seniority and outsourcing fall way short of giving some meaningful protections to Guild members. They still leave all the final decisions on layoffs and outsourcing up to managers with no limits on what can be done. Despite that, it’s still encouraging that the company negotiators are trying to give the appearance of movement in bargaining. We need to keep up the pressure so they provide some substance as bargaining proceeds.

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