Bill to laid-off workers now at $750,000

The debt owed to the 11 workers illegally laid off by the Times Union in 2009 has now grown to $750,000.

It has grown by $150,000 since September, and it continues to grow especially with compounded daily interest being charged. In 2010, after a hearing, an administrative law judge ruled the Times Union broke the law in laying off the 11 and again in declaring impasse in those talks.

The company appealed that decision to the full board in Washington, D.C., which unanimously upheld the decision that the TU broke the law.

Now that the NLRB is taking the company to court to enforce its order, the newspaper can settle with the union; appeal and fight it in court, running the bill up even higher; or pay the full back wages and benefits and restore as many of the 11 workers as want to return.

If that is the course the Times Union chooses, it could result in an equal number of positions being cut. The company would have to first offer a buyout again. If not enough people take it, layoffs could either be done by reverse order of seniority or by negotiating the criteria for out-of-seniority layoffs.

The Guild met again this week with the company, and again we offered even more compromises on the issue of layoffs. (The session was off the record at our lawyer’s advice.) We have made clear we are willing to give the company a tremendous amount of flexibility while retaining some bargaining rights.

The company’s position, however, remains inflexible. The Hearst Corp. remains uninterested in any settlement that does not give bosses effectively a blank check to lay off whomever they please and outsource whatever work they like without negotiation.

“We did everything in our power to bargain a settlement, but our members have made clear it makes no sense to give up our bargaining rights,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “As Chief Steward Brian Nearing says, you cannot put a price on cutting off our tongues and leaving us voiceless.”

Nearing and 1st Vice President Lindsay LaFountain joined O’Brien at the bargaining session.

If the company decides to pay the back wages and restore workers to their jobs without a settlement, employees will continue to work under posted conditions, which means the wage scales remain in effect and cannot be cut. Almost all of the contract continues in place just as it has for the past three years.

The Guild remains open to further discussion on a settlement, but the clock on this case is running out.

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