Company forces vote on ‘final’ offer
The Guild came to the bargaining table with a revised proposal Wednesday, but the Company wanted no further discussion and was unwilling to even listen to further changes. Instead, its bargainers demanded that its “best and last offer” be taken to a vote of the membership.
That would allow the Company to outsource any and all jobs and to lay off anyone regardless of seniority and without providing any guidelines on what workers could do to keep their jobs. It would raise employees’ share of health insurance costs 5 percent on January 1, eating up more than $300 of the $500 cash bonus the Company proposes. (There would be no raises over the three-year life of the agreement.)
Guild bargainers decided that, given the Company’s refusal to move any further, the time has come for the membership to speak out through its vote. The Executive Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (which is tomorrow as this is being written but today as many of you are reading this) to discuss setting a time and location for the vote.
“We believe the bargaining committee has done all it can do up to this point,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “Now it is up to the membership. We are disappointed at the Company’s refusal to do what we remain willing to do: explore the proposals and make amendments to move us closer together.”
When one of the Company’s two out-of-town lawyers said last time that past performance reviews and disciplinary letters could be used in deciding who gets laid off, the Guild asked to review those files. In beginning that review, the Guild swiftly learned many performance reviews had yet to be filed, two out of the nine files we examined had the wrong person’s reviews in them and others contained extremely old disciplinary letters.
“We wanted to have further discussion on this discovery, which we made earlier in the day, but the Company did not want to discuss how it might use those inaccurate files to lay someone off,” O’Brien said.
In the days ahead, the Guild will provide its members with a complete list of everything in the Company’s demands and an explanation of what it all means. The parties had reached some tentative agreements on relatively minor issues that will be part of the package.
The Executive Board will also decide what recommendation to make to the membership.
As soon as a membership meeting date is set, we will inform you.
I believe the company’s proposals for outsourcing and elimination of job security for longtime, dedicated employees would do tremendous damage to the Times Union. The proposals would severely undermine the newspaper’s ability to retain its identity and reputation as a local newspaper doing essential local journalism, serving local advertisers, contributing to the local economy and raising the level of local public discourse.
Here’s one newsroom perspective: Correspondents can make a fine contribution to a newspaper, but not if they are viewed as bargain-priced substitutes for the well-qualified journalists (and I mean all of us, including our talented, dedicated artists and our newest hires) in our newsroom. We are fortunate to work in a community that appreciates us.
With apologies for sounding like a broken record, a local newspaper needs local employees. I really hope the Hearst Corp. doesn’t have to learn this costly lesson firsthand.
I hope the guild employees have the courage to tell the company just where they should put this final offer.
You deserve better and should take nothing less than a fair contract. If you cave to the company terms now the future will only be worse.
Keep your work here in Albany with the guild, you work hard and should have the security to know the work you do today will be the work you can look forward to in the future.
Do not be afraid to turn this contract down with a strong resounding NO! Your bargaining team need the support you each can offer with this vote. Please do the right thing.