The Guild held a Joint Standing Committee July 2 with Times Union management that covered a number of topics impacting every department.
President Mandy Fries led the discussion held with Publisher George Hearst and other managers. Mandy was joined by Vice President Ken Crowe, Treasurer Jayson McKenna and Chief Steward Rob Gavin. Both sides continued to build on a history of reaching reasonable understanding.
Return to work and clean desk policy
The Times Union has tentative plans to bring about 30 people back to work in the main plant on Albany Shaker Road on Monday July 27. This is a tentative date. Managers of various departments will be the first to return. Some employees from advertising, circulation and editorial could also be in that group.
We’ll be notified of who is scheduled to go back. There would be a phased return to bring more people about two to three weeks later.
The Times Union is considering using an App for each of us to report in on health questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic before coming into the office each day.
Guild representatives will do a walk-through before July 27 that will be arranged with Dan Couto, who heads operations and is in charge of keeping the workplace safe from coronavirus. There will be an immediate report posted on the walk-through when it is completed.
Publisher George Hearst said as part of the cleaning upgrades, the company will be installing improved air filters to scrub the air. This is similar to what Gov. Andrew Cuomo says has to be done at malls.
The Guild and the Company have agreed on a “Common Sense” approach to a clean desk policy. The original proposal was to discipline employees up to and including being fired if you don’t clean your desk off before heading home. Now, if you don’t clean your desk off, everything will be thrown away to give the cleaners the cleared space for a thorough cleaning.
The CLEAN DESK is necessary to combat potential spread of the coronavirus.
Remember, if you don’t clean your desk you lose everything that isn’t computer or telephone equipment. If you leave behind notes for a story, they’re gone. A fantastic sales plan, it’s gone.
The CLEAN DESK Policy is a reasonable agreement where the employee is placed first. There is no discipline for failing to clear your desk each day. But, if you fail to clear the desk, you will lose what’s on it.
Circulation department and depots
Chief Steward Rob Gavin and President Mandy Fries worked on circulation issues over the last several weeks. Particularly difficult work was done in dealing with issues related to a manager’s interaction with Guild-represented employees.
The Times Union has directed the companies responsible for the Kingston and North Greenbush depots to clean any mold. District managers brought mold issues to the Guild’s attention. Also in Kingston, toiletries and supplies for the bathrooms and depot have been delivered.
There’s been issues with a manager in the Circulation Department who is in charge of the circulation customer service reps who have the demanding work of keeping Times Union members – the subscribers in the pre-digital era – happy and on board.
Circulation VP Todd Peterson and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia are working with this manager to improve communication and other skills that will lead to an improved working environment in which ALL reps are treated with respect.
Remember, if there are issues in your department, contact your co-workers in the Guild leadership or activists so we can resolve the situation.
Work at home expenses
The Guild and the Times Union continued discussions about company contributions to pay for bona fide business-related expenses that have popped up since we started working from home.
The Company reaffirmed its long-standing practice of reimbursing employees for bona fide business-related expenses, and cited contract Section 22 (expenses).
Guild members also met virtually Wednesday to discuss opportunities for making the Times Union more diverse and inclusive, both internally and externally with our coverage.
The group of about 10 Guild members came up with several ideas that we will be fine-tuning in the coming weeks to later present to management.
If you were unable to attend and want to provide input, please reach out to the Guild at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be sharing the finalized recommendations in the future.
The Guild now has a set of organizational charts provided by the Company showing the management setup and the managers each of us reports to while at work.
If you have any questions or issues, please contact the Guild office at office@AlbanyGuild.org. We will be in touch.