NLRB case settled in principle; 3 laid-off workers to return

In a major victory in a 3-year-long battle, the case that began with the illegal layoff of 11 employees will end with payments to all the workers — and three of them returning to their jobs.

Late Friday, an agreement was reached in principle between the Times Union, the Newspaper Guild of Albany and the National Labor Relations Board, which litigated the case.

Under the agreement, three employees will reclaim their jobs at the newspaper and will receive 85 percent of the back pay they are owed since their 2009 layoffs. The other eight workers chose not to return and will receive 115 percent of their back pay.

Final details are still being worked out, such as coverage for any medical expenses the employees had to pay in the interim and the pension credit these workers are due. In one case, an employee had not yet been vested in the pension fund (which takes five years) but would have been had he not been illegally let go. He will become vested. Another employee began to collect his pension, but that amount might have been higher had he stayed longer and could be adjusted.

Of the three workers who are returning, two are from editorial and one is from advertising art. They are reporter Brian Ettkin, content editor Alan Abair and advertising artist Bill Blais. They are expected to return to their duties in May.

“This is a victory not only for these workers but for all our members,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “This means the company must respect our right to negotiate over the criteria for layoffs and not simply walk out whomever management pleases.”

The return of the three workers should not cause anyone else to be laid off, O’Brien said. There is a reporter opening now that resulted from the promotion of a former reporter to a features editor position, and there is a second reporter who is retiring in May.

“We believe there are sufficient vacant positions in editorial and elsewhere that layoffs should be unnecessary,” the Guild president said. “We are happy to welcome back these workers and glad to see this long ordeal end for all 11.”

The Guild had offered to settle the case earlier and at less cost in return for a contract that included concessions on both layoffs and outsourcing. But the company refused any settlement that did not effectively strip workers of bargaining rights in both areas. Our fight for a fair contract and our first raises in five years continues.

The Guild is planning a meeting to enable members to ask any questions they might have about the settlement and the path forward.

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