The Times Union laid off a maintenance employee Monday who worked for the company for five years, but it failed to follow the language the company imposed requiring a buyout to be negotiated and offered to employees before any layoffs occur.
This is especially important because the company is now saying other job cuts may be on the horizon in editorial and other departments.
The language imposed in 2009 states that before any layoffs occur, the company must give the Guild 45 days’ notice and negotiate a buyout offer. The parties bargained a buyout last year, but the company was very clear that while anyone could apply, that buyout was targeted specifically at advertising art/marketing and the Web desk.
“No one in maintenance, editorial, circulation or any other department would have reason to believe they should have applied,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “A negotiated buyout is not open-ended. The application period has long since ended. Before any further cuts can occur, a new buyout offer must be bargained. We’ve told the company to reinstate the maintenance worker until that occurs.”
The affected worker was the least senior person in maintenance but had been a loyal, well-regarded employee for five years.
O’Brien and Guild Secretary Mark Hempstead met with Publisher George Hearst last week to discuss issues including rumors of job cuts in editorial. The publisher did not provide specifics about cuts, but said advertising has been down this year. Most of the company’s cost reductions do not involve personnel, he said, but some job losses could be forthcoming soon. He did not set any timeline.
The Guild also discussed the closing of the Troy and Saratoga Springs bureaus. The Guild has no objection but noted the company’s announcement the reporters would become “mobile journalists” working largely in the field is a change in working conditions that requires bargaining. The company is obligated to provide the equipment needed to do the job.
The TU is giving the reporters laptop computers and will pay part of the bill for employees who already have smart phones. The Guild noted two employees do not have smart phones and have been told to share what is now the bureau cell phone.
O’Brien told Hearst it was inadequate to provide one phone to be shared between two reporters who are supposed to be working out of coffee shops and other locations. Hearst agreed and said he would discuss the matter with newsroom editors.
The Guild also discussed recent complaints from members and customers about outsourcing circulation calls to a Pennsylvania company called Telereach.
The union did not object to the switch because its members were moved to making outbound calls to drive up circulation (which has been successful, thanks to their hard work), but Telereach has done such an awful job upset customers have called various employees and even come walking into the plant to cancel their newspaper.
Hearst said the TU is working to remedy the problem. The harsh weather was partly to blame, with carrier turnover exceeding 100 percent. Hearst said calls from people who didn’t get their newspaper tie up two phone lines, one for the incoming call and one for transferring the call to Telereach. The TU is trying to fix that issue, he said.
Guild leaders asked about movement of accounts payable work to San Antonio. Hearst said one member will see a shift in some duties but no member will lose a job