Guild and management reach tentative agreement

The Guild and management reached a tentative agreement late Friday afternoon that succeeded in saving The News $2.9 million through a combination of wage cuts, buyouts and other separation incentives.

Guild members will be asked to vote on the tentative agreement Thursday.

“Our goal from the beginning was to save jobs, and we saved as many as we could,” said Phil Fairbanks, chairman of the Guild bargaining committee. “This was one of the most difficult negotiations we’ve ever been involved with. The results are not ideal, given the number of employees and families who have been hurt by the decision making of News management. But the Guild fulfilled its responsibility to find cost savings alternatives that protect its members.”

The agreement spares six full-time district manager positions and provides separation incentives to Inside Circulation clerks whose jobs are at risk. Despite the bargaining team’s best efforts, however, the Guild was unable to prevent the layoff of six full-time district managers, one Classified employee and two part-time Editorial sports clerks.

All full-time Editorial and Accounting employees were spared from layoffs through earlier buyout savings.

The Guild’s comprehensive proposal would save The News $1.16 million. Add to that the $1.73 million in additional savings from employees who took the buyout, and the agreement reaches management’s target of $2.9 million in permanent, long-term savings.
The tentative agreement includes three unit-wide concessions:

  • Giving up 1 percent of the 2 percent raise Guild members are entitled to receive in August. Members would also defer the remaining 1 percent raise until Feb. 1, 2010.
  • Waiving the $9 differential amount for those Guild employees who work during the day on Sundays. The Sunday nighttime differential remains the same.
  • Letting the company keep the $50 holiday bonus that Guild members receive from The News in December.The agreement also includes department-specific proposals to address severe job losses in the circulation department.These include:
    • Full-time district managers taking a 10 percent cut in wages, sparing six full-time district managers and allowing another six to be laid off with “enhanced severance.”
    • A special separation program for Inside Circulation employees that would allow four full-time Group C employees and one full-time B employee to leave the company with a lump sum equivalent to one-year’s annual earnings. This would assist employees whose jobs would likely be jeopardized through employee bumping rights.

Additionally, the agreement calls for “enhanced severance” for anyone who ends up laid off as part of the cost-cutting efforts. Essentially, those employees would be entitled to three weeks of severance, instead of two, for every year of service at The News, up to a maximum of 52 weeks, instead of 48.

Finally, the agreement calls for the creation of a labor-management committee that would meet monthly to review The News’ finances and projections, and discuss ideas for training, operational improvements, promotional campaigns and revenue opportunities to preserve the viability of the company.

The Guild will hold an informational meeting for all members Tuesday night, with an in-building ratification vote scheduled for Thursday. More details regarding time and place will be forthcoming on Monday.