No progress in bargaining Friday

A day after the Company canceled our contract, negotiations resumed without any progress.

Publisher George Hearst said he wants to begin layoffs by month’s end or early May at the latest, but he wants to eliminate those jobs without regard to seniority. He would need a new contractual agreement to do so.

Hearst said the Times Union is looking to lay off 65 to 75 workers between the exempt and Guild ranks. Despite assurances cuts would fall equally among Guild members and management, he went on to estimate that 60 jobs would come out of the 240 the Guild represents and the remaining 10 to 15 would come from the 110 people in the exempt ranks.

As the Guild has already documented, the Times Union is already top heavy with management, with one “manager” for every 2.5 employees.

“The final numbers will show whether the Company is sincere about equally sharing the pain,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “But Hearst’s initial estimates make it appear that cuts will fall more heavily on our members.”

The number of layoffs will be reduced by people taking the voluntary buyout, Hearst said.

Guild leaders said they are willing to be flexible in dealing with the seniority issue on layoffs but continued to say it was unfair to leave someone with 30 years’ dedicated service equally vulnerable as a new hire.

Despite their constant talk of flexibility, the Company remained rigid on that idea and on its proposal to be able to outsource any and all jobs.

Here’s a comparison. In his letter canceling the contract, Publisher George Hearst wrote: “We look forward to continuing to bargain with the Guild and hope to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion as soon as possible.”

At one point earlier in negotiations, however, the Company’s attorney and lead negotiator Peter Rahbar said: “We are under no obligation to move.” On Friday, Rahbar made a similar remark right after the parties agreed to three future meeting dates.

“The core of our proposals is going to remain the same,” he said.

The parties have bargaining sessions scheduled for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22; Tuesday, April 28; and Wednesday, May 13.

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