Times Union proposes to cut six more jobs

Times Union management proposed Tuesday to cut six more jobs at the newspaper, four of them in the advertising/marketing area and two on the Web desk in editorial.

The Guild listened to the company’s proposal and its suggested buyout terms but did not present a response. Union leaders said they needed time to get input from employees in the affected areas.

The union will hold a meeting for members from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Colonie Public Library. Everyone in the affected titles is urged to attend.

The company did not provide a proposal in writing but said it would mirror last year’s buyout offer with two weeks for every year of service, with a minimum of 12 weeks and a maximum of 52. Health care would be for the same number of weeks, with a minimum of insurance to the end of the year. The Times Union would not challenge unemployment claims.

The union did not make a counteroffer. Guild President Tim O’Brien and First Vice President Lindsay LaFountain attended the meeting, but the company declined to say in advance what the topic was. Typically, the union brings members in affected areas to any discussion.

“We would not agree to anything without getting input from our members,” O’Brien said. “We also have concerns that the workload in both cannot be done with so few people. We need to get input and data from our members before we can respond intelligently.”

Publisher George Hearst said the online job cuts resulted from the recent reformatting of the Web site. The site is much more formatted, he said, requiring fewer people to put it together.

The revised Web site, which many see as far weaker than the former site, is connected to the Hearst operations in Connecticut. Changes on the TU’s pages can be made by workers there. While the Company claims the work is being eliminated, not outsourced, the Guild needs to discuss that issue further with the affected members.

Outsourcing of work under the imposed conditions requires negotiations. (There would be no negotiations over outsourcing if members had approved the Times Union’s proposed contract last year, and there is no guarantee of severance, never mind an enhanced buyout, in a non-union workplace.)

If the company did not get the number of people to take the buyout it wants, it would be required to negotiate any layoffs outside of seniority. Again, if members had approved the company’s proposed contract last year, members would have no right to bargain over layoffs.

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