Guild makes major move on seniority

In an effort to move contract negotiations forward, the Guild made a major proposal Tuesday that would allow the Company to lay off a limited number of people outside seniority. Employees who lost their jobs as a result would get enhanced severance pay and benefits.

The Guild proposed that the Company could “skip” people with demonstrable exceptional skills or ability. The Company would have to provide evidence of such skills or ability, and the union would have the right to file a grievance. All employees must have been offered equal access to any special skills training.

The number of employees who could be skipped would be limited to no more than 10 percent of those laid off and no more than two people in a job classification.

If the Company laid off 70 people, as it has threatened to do, that means it could “skip” seven employees.

Those who get laid off outside of seniority would be entitled to one week of additional severance for every four months, or majority thereof, they’ve worked at the Times Union.  Essentially, that means a person would get three weeks of severance pay for every year of service. The Guild also proposed that employees so laid off would get 18 months of health-care coverage.

If a person was within 18 months of retirement, the Company would also give them full credit (and make the appropriate contribution to the pension fund) so they could retire when they reached retirement age.

“No one should be laid off a few months’ shy of retirement age and lose the benefit they worked so long, hard and loyally to achieve,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said.

While the decision to weaken seniority protections was difficult and might upset some of the Guild’s members, O’Brien said the union is trying to balance the Company’s stated need for flexibility with the union members’ desire for some level of job protection.

O’Brien said it would be unfair to allow the Company to lay off the most senior employee in a department while keeping a person with limited  experience here who might be looking to move on soon. He cited specific examples in editorial: It would be inappropriate to put Carol DeMare, a reporter with more than three decades of experience, at risk of a layoff while “skipping” an employee like Marc Parry, an excellent reporter who just left the newspaper (and we’re proud of him) to take a job at the Chronicle of Higher Education he’d actively been pursuing for months.

“Our proposal would give the Company a fair chance to save some people with special skills, while not putting our most senior employees, the people who would find it hardest to get a new job, at risk,” O’Brien said.

The Company still wanted a blank check to lay off anyone no matter how long or loyal their service. Those who lost a job outside seniority would get three weeks’ pay per year of service and health insurance for the same number of weeks as the dismissal pay. The Company would cap both at a maximum of 52 weeks.

The Company also proposed to eliminate the current language that requires laid-off employees to be placed on a rehiring list. Instead, the Company proposes to create a rehiring list for one year that would not require management to rehire anybody.

O’Brien called the proposal a “RINO” — Rehiring in Name Only.

The negotiations are set to resume at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Executive Conference Room. Members are free to attend on their own time.


  • disgusted

    So if I read this right, the company made zero movement after this titanic move by the union. It’s their turn to show some interest in settling this thing.

  • joe worker

    “Guild makes miniscule move on seniosnority” would be a more realistic headline. I hope you get your wish and the contract is canceled, then the company will be forced to make some really deep cuts – at which point seniority won’t make a dame bit of difference after the paper closes.

    Are the jobs of about ten questionable workers who have been here for close to twenty or more years really worth it for the entire workforce? I don’t think so.

    If you ruin this for everybody over a few people, who frankly would probably have been fired ages ago thanks to the guild, I seriously doubt anyone will be paying you your dues money anytime soon. You are charged with representing the entire guild workforce, not just a couple whose work ethic obviously has them worried about being let go. I’m not paying you to sacrifice my job, so don’t count on me to back you up, and frankly I think this echoes the sentiment of a lot of people.

    • albanyguild

      I posted this comment, Joe, although I suspect you’re not really a Times Union employee. We get anti-union commenters who troll looking for union Web sites to spread their poison. Regardless, I’ll answer some of your nonsensical comments.

      1) We don’t “wish” for the contract to be canceled. We’ve made clear from day one that we believe that unprecedented step should not be taken.

      2) What 10 “questionable” workers are you talking about? The Company hires and manages the workforce. If there are incompetent people working here, why did management allow them to survive for “20 or more years.” That’s why I don’t think you really work at the Times Union. If you did, you’d know the Company has fired people over the years. If they are incompetent, we have no power to stop them and wouldn’t want to. You credit us for far more power than we have, again leading me to believe you’re not really a TU employee.
      3) Not sure what you mean by “people who frankly would have been fired ages ago thanks to the Guild.” Huh? That comment makes no sense. And the Company wants to lay off 29 percent of the workforce. Are you arguing that more than a quarter of the Times Union’s workers are incompetent?
      4) Re “I’m not paying you to sacrifice my job.” No, you’re not. Here’s what our members get for their dues: A union that convinced the company to offer voluntary buyouts when it was content to lay people off. A union that fights to make sure that people laid off in a bad economy get severance pay and health insurance. A union that stands up against outsourcing any and all of our work. A union that bargained language to give new parents a week off when a baby is born or adopted. A union that bargained some financial assistance for people to adopt children. A union that bargained for the creation of a room for nursing mothers. I could go on and on. Know what you would get for severance in a nonunion shop? Squat.

  • short-sighted

    Rather than pursuing the battle over the seniority issue, we need insight on the future of the business and pull together to be ready to be leaders in it. This layoff battle is short-sighted. Here we have a trained, loyal, as well as talented body of workers, ready – even eager- for the future. Diversity of age is not a synonym for slackers, but an opportunity to put experience to work.
    We broaden out understanding of the market by having many ages in our employ: Our own needs according to age gives us first-hand insight to reach out to all markets.

  • the future is now

    Funding to pursue educational study for post-layoff employees at the Times Union is needed, instead of give-ins by the Guild on seniority which do not cost the company a thing.
    It would show appreciation and concern for our co-workers, providing a time buffer while easing things for those laid off in an economy in which there are no jobs available, unemployment benefits that run out, and health concerns that certainly await.
    Even for workers still employed, adjusting to the expense of our MVP health plan is so difficult now that employees are going without medicine and doctor visits which were affordable under the Blue Cross plan.
    Providing an opportunity for education beyond the limits of the Times Union might impress upon George and his negotiators the notion that we should be groomed and ready for future at the Times Union rather than being separated from it. As he is well aware, George has a loyal, smart group of award-winners and their talented support system who should not be laid off.
    There are many changes awaiting in the industry; the Company has a trained corp ready to be updated who it should be cherishing rather than looking short-sightedly – and without long-term cost-effectiveness – to lay off.

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