Guild members overwhelmingly ratify agreement

Buffalo Newspaper Guild members approved a tentative agreement Thursday that succeeded in saving The News $2.9 million through a combination of wage cuts, buyouts and other separation incentives.

Guild members voted 178 to 24 in favor of the tentative agreement that the bargaining team reached with management on Friday.

“No one is happy about the numerous families hurt by The News’ cutbacks,” said Phil Fairbanks, chairman of the Guild bargaining committee. “Everyone in our union sacrificed to save jobs. Our hope now is that management will do its part to put the paper on firm financial footing and avoid future layoffs.”

The agreement spares six full-time district manager positions and provides separation incentives to Inside Circulation clerks whose jobs are at risk. The Guild was unable to prevent the layoff of six full-time district managers, one Classified employee and two part-time Editorial sports clerks. Some of these employees will have bumping rights into other jobs at The News.

The agreement will result in Guild employees receiving a 1 percent raise in February instead of a 2 percent raise this August, an end to employees’ holiday bonus and Sunday daytime differential pay, and a 10 percent wage cut for district managers.

For those employees who took buyouts or are at risk of being laid off:

  • Everyone who accepts a separation agreement or is eventually laid off as part of this cost-cutting agreement should be entitled to receive a 65 percent federal subsidy on their health insurance premium for the next nine months if they elect to continue their health insurance coverage through COBRA.
  • Under the negotiated agreement, laid off employees are entitled to “enhanced severance.” They are 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. That breaks down into one week of severance for every four months of service, or major fraction thereof.
  • Anyone being laid off will receive two weeks notice before their last day in April. That means laid off employees would maintain fully covered health care through April 30. If those same employees are able to add on vacation time that keeps them on the payroll until May, they would receive covered health care through May 31. This does not apply to those who took buyouts.
  • Guild employees facing unemployment are invited to a seminar with Tim Heyden, a labor representative from Collins and Maxwell, at noon on Thursday, April 2 at the Guild office, 726 Exchange St., Suite 510, Buffalo. Heyden will offer Guild employees advice on the unemployment application process and be available to answer questions
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