Negotiations flounder; both sides to meet again today

The Guild bargaining team and management will meet today after a frustrating 13 hours of negotiations on Tuesday that resulted in a complete breakdown of talks at midnight.

The collapse came after The News rejected a Guild proposal that met 95 percent of the company’s $2.9 million cost-cutting goal and, if adopted, would have saved many of the jobs targeted for elimination.

Once bargaining broke down, The News stated its intention to move forward with the layoff of 21 Guild members. The Guild responded by indicating its attention would be refocused on workplace and community actions and preparing for lengthy and costly arbitration challenges.

On Tuesday, management stated that it had reconsidered its hard-line positions from the night before and was prepared to meet with the Guild again today.

The Guild’s comprehensive proposal would save The News nearly $1.1 million. Add to that the $1.7 million in additional savings from employees who took the buyout, and the Guild would enable management to reach $2.8 million in permanent, long-term savings while preserving many full-time positions targeted for layoff.

The bargaining team’s proposal includes three significant, unit-wide measures that would result in a savings of $177,127 annually:

  • Giving up half of the 2 percent raise Guild members are entitled to receive in August. By foregoing a 1 percent pay raise, The News would save $124,568 annually.
  • Waiving the $9 differential amount for those Guild employees who work during the day on Sundays. The Sunday nighttime differential would have been preserved.
  • Letting the company keep the $50 holiday bonus that Guild members receive from The News in December.
  • The Guild also put forth department-specific proposals to address potential job losses in the circulation department.These included:
    • Full-time district managers taking a 10 percent cut in wages, and allowing four full-time district managers and five part-time district managers to be laid off. Altogether, the district manager proposal would result in $520,544 in savings and, along with other Guild-wide cost-saving measures, spared eight full-time DM jobs.
    • A special separation program for Inside Circulation employees that would allow all full-time Group B and Group C employees with 5 years of service to leave the company with a lump sum equivalent to one-year’s annual earnings.

This would address the company’s proposal to layoff five full-time Group C Circulation employees who were never offered a voluntary separation incentive. The incentive could have resulted in a potential savings of $202,433.

Finally, the bargaining committee stated that it would not contest certain layoffs, but required that anyone laid off as part of the Guild’s cost-saving proposal would be offered “enhanced severance” greater than what is currently required in the contract.

Chief negotiator Marian Needham called management’s unwillingness to bargain over key issues “inconsistent, stupid and shortsighted.”

“We tried to work with you, and you won’t let us,” she told the executive team.

The Guild’s proposal called for permanent sacrifices from every Guild member. But through the course of the negotiations Tuesday, it became apparent management had little intention of finding common ground.

Management’s positions kept changing throughout the day, making it impossible for the Guild to craft an acceptable proposal.

Negotiations ended close to midnight, with The News stating its intention to send out layoff notices. Publisher Stanford Lipsey never met with Guild leaders but it was clear he was driving the process behind the scenes.

“I can only go as far as I’ve been given the authority to go,” said Human Resources Vice President Daniel Farberman.

The Guild remains prepared to move forward with more aggressive mobilization and community awareness campaigns, and is preparing for future arbitrations if a satisfactory agreement is not reached.