Company illegally ends layoff talks

A day after telling the Guild Thursday that the Times Union would consider and respond to the union’s proposal on how layoffs should be handled, the Company instead illegally declared an impasse in those talks and declared the 13 people walked out the door officially laid off.

The news was not a surprise, but it was a blatant violation of the law, part of a pattern of illegal behavior we’ve witnessed in recent months. First, the Times Union’s declaration of an impasse itself was illegal, as the Company sought to impose language on layoffs and outsourcing that it cannot legally implement. Next, as negotiations on the criteria for layoffs had barely begun, the Company walked the employees out the door.

Since then, the Times Union has refused to put into writing its complete criteria for how layoffs would be handled. It illegally decided who to lay off based on criteria it had developed and executed before ever sitting down to bargain. It has refused to make any changes to any of the parts of the criteria it showed us, even when admitting that people were judged based on standards that were never written down, shared with the employees or negotiated with the union. (They only move they made, knowing it would have no impact, was to drop a review of one employee by a manager who hadn’t overseen her work in two years. That review, of course, never should have been done by that manager in the first place.)

The Times Union refused to consider employee’s personnel history and failed to explain contradictions between the layoff evaluations and past performance reviews. And Publisher George Hearst, who said he would review the proposed layoffs to prevent favoritism, admitted he never looked at personnel records either.

“From the beginning, the Guild was presented not with a proposal to be considered but with a fait accompli,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “The Company’s approach was to simply show up at the table, refuse to move and at the end of the 45 days to declare the talks were over and its will could now be imposed.”

Fortunately, there are laws against such behavior. The Times Union’s actions are under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board.

“It is unfortunate that the Times Union shows such complete disregard for the law,” O’Brien said. “In the end, though it will take time and patience, we expect the newspaper bosses to be held accountable.”

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