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Guild Update: Remote Work, COVID-19, Buyouts, Ethics, Stewards

It’s been a busy autumn as nearly all of us continue to work remotely. The Guild anticipates that remote work will continue to be the rule as the coronavirus pandemic continues to roll up higher numbers of people infected.

Remote Work

As was previously noted, the Guild’s Executive Board proposed a Remote Work Policy to the Times Union, aiming to negotiate a policy that would set guidelines for working outside the office and related equipment issues. This was an outgrowth of our push this past summer on cell phone and equipment reimbursement.

When President Mandy Fries first presented the concept to Times Union Publisher George Hearst and Human Resources Director Ruth Fantasia, they said we would hear from Hearst Corporate attorneys from corporate headquarters. We finally heard from attorney Vincent Floyd after submitting a proposal.

“Additionally, we have reviewed the Guild’s proposed Remote Work Agreement. The proposal is not acceptable to us. We do not have a counter-proposal at this time,”  Floyd wrote Mandy.

Obviously, we are all disappointed by this initial response. It’s not over.

COVID-19

We urge you to continue to be vigilant and not take chances. Members have informed us of people testing positive for COVID-19 that may have resulted in a very limited exposure to a few people who work in the circulation and editorial departments. None of our unit members have tested positive and anyone in contact have gone into quarantine.

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed please contact a Guild board member, the Guild office or your shop steward in addition to company protocols. We can help you work with management to ensure proper protocols are followed and mandatory quarantines are covered by the employer.

Buyouts

The corporate policy of no layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic remains in place. We’ve had two rounds of voluntary buyouts. These occurrences did not trigger the layoff language in our contract.

In the most recent round, eight people applied for the buyout. The Times Union accepted four out of the eight who applied. We’re losing two colleagues in editorial and one each in advertising and circulation. The company rejected three colleagues in circulation and one in editorial.

Editorial Ethics Policy

The Times Union implemented an editorial ethics policy without consulting the Guild. We issued a request to negotiate pointing out in part that the policy violated at least one long-standing section of our contract and that other aspects raised legal issues and was subject to bargaining. The company’s attorney rejected our request to bargain over the policy but said the company is “willing to discuss any concerns or questions that the Guild may have relating to the policy.” This matter is still pending.

Stewards

The Albany Newspaper Guild’s shop stewards have been reaching out to unit members to find out what’s on your minds and concerns you may have. If someone from the Guild has reached out to you by email, phone or some other method, give them a shout back! They are here to support you and improve the overall workplace, and they will be regularly reaching out.

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