In one of his forums with employees Wednesday, Publisher George Hearst inaccurately claimed an impasse is forever.
Guild President Tim O’Brien was in the meeting. He suspected the answer was wrong, but didn’t immediately respond because he needed to research the right response. He consulted with representatives of the Guild International, including its legal counsel, after leaving the meeting and had a swift answer.
“What George Hearst said is untrue,” O’Brien said. “An impasse lasts for what would have been the term of the contract. In this case, the Company is proposing a three-year agreement, one year of which is almost over. We would be back in negotiations by 2011 at a minimum.”
In addition, the Company could make no further contractual changes without an agreement with the Guild. So, for example, if the Company wanted to reorganize positions in a department (as it did last year in editorial) the Company would have to bargain over it. The Guild would naturally insist that any agreement be part of an overall contract settlement.
The parties also would continue to negotiate and, at any time, could reach a mutual agreement.
“We do not believe that the parties are at impasse just because the Company decided to force a vote,” O’Brien said. “But George was wrong to tell members that an impasse is forever. It is not.”
During the session, Hearst was asked about a recent tentative agreement at the Washington Post, where the company agreed to limits on layoffs outside seniority and a bar against laying off people in order to outsource work. Hearst conceded the Guild in Albany had offered flexibility by setting percentages on the number of jobs that could be outsourced or the number of workers who could be laid off outside seniority. When he said the percentages offered by the Guild were unacceptable, one employee bravely asked what percentages would be acceptable.
“We’re not here negotiating,” Hearst responded crisply. “I appreciate the spirit of your question.”
Hearst did not offer much in the way of reasons why members should support his efforts to outsource any and all work or to lay off anyone regardless of how long their service, except to say that a yes vote would have ‘more curb appeal,’ ‘better kharma’ and ‘the optics are better.’ We’re not sure what any of that means.
But Hearst did acknowledge the Guild would have greater say in negotiating layoffs or outsourcing if the proposal was defeated. And he urged members to pay their dues so that they are eligible to vote. On that point, we wholeheartedly agree.