TU ignored personnel files in layoffs
Company managers said Wednesday they never examined employees’ personnel records before deciding which to lay off. Even Publisher George Hearst said he never looked at employee’s performance reviews in reviewing managers’ decisions.
The Company also said one manager reviewed the work of an employee he does not oversee, and a top manager in editorial said he had no idea why one employee’s review said the person was “abrupt” with editors when there is no personnel history to substantiate such a claim and the employee denies it.
The Times Union also wants to take its first step toward outsourcing our work. The TU proposes to hire an independent contractor to clean the building, resulting in three additional lost jobs.
The Company’s answers came during questioning by the union over the criteria used in out-of-seniority layoffs. So far, the Company has let go 13 workers, 12 of them out of seniority, and says one more person has yet to be notified. While the Company claims the employees are on a paid 45-day leave, the union maintains that they have effectively laid them off.
The union is continuing to meet with the Company over these two issues but is challenging the out-of-seniority layoffs in front of the National Labor Relations Board. The parties next meet Thursday, July 30.
In preparation for Wednesday’s meeting, the Guild reviewed the personnel files of all the people on the Company’s layoff list. In many cases, the union found sharp contradictions between what was said in recent performance reviews on file in employee’s personnel records and what was said in the Company’s process for determining who got laid off.
For example, one supervisor said an employee lacked a “gung-ho attitude.” That worker’s most recent review said the person “is extremely resourceful and takes prides in her work. … No matter what she is asked to do, she will find a way because it is the right thing to do for the customer.”
One employee laid off was named Page Designer of the Year in this spring’s editorial award ceremony and twice received merit raises. One of the reporters let go was named the Young Journalist of the Year. Both were laid off outside seniority.
Two possible explanations for the managers failing to consider staff histories:
A. The “what have you done for me LATELY?” syndrome.
Having to take the long view of an employee’s record would take time and effort and we can’t have that. After all, we’re only talking about people losing jobs in a shrinking industry. Revisiting the praise from the Editor or the gratitude of the public, awards and honors … all of these would only serve as distractions when trying to justify dumping the clerk you don’t like much or trying to keep a protege you personally brought on board.
Top management had a role to play here, too. The executives should have demanded a serious approach to these layoffs. That they didn’t step up will reflect badly on the Times Union for a very long time.
Dazed and Amazed
Hearst is making quite a name for itself these days …