The Buffalo News used buyouts to cut its work force by 36 Guild members last month, and then threatened layoffs as a way of cutting another 21 jobs.
The Guild, as of press time for this issue, was meeting with News’ executives in hopes of mitigating those layoffs by agreeing to other types of cost savings.
The two sides began meeting after The News informed the Guild of its intent to lay off 52 employees unless a feasible alternative could be found. Buyouts and other changes eventually reduced the layoff list to 21 positions.
“We are doing everything we can to avoid those layoffs,” said Guild President Pat Gormley, one of many district managers targeted for a layoff. “The key will be whether the company truly wants savings or simply wants bodies out the door.”
Early on, the company’s action suggested their goal was bodies, not savings.
Among other things, the News refused to extend its buyout offer, a decision that forced 16 district managers to take the buyout or risk getting laid off.
A few days later, the company seemed to reverse direction and, for the first time, show a willingness to save full-time jobs.
One of the results was a tentative agreement that could save eight of the 13 district manager jobs targeted for elimination. At the core of the agreement, which is subject to membership approval, is a 10 percent cut in the base wage earned by all district managers.
The deal would save district manager jobs at a time when their ranks, already decimated by buyouts, are at risk of losing even more people because of layoffs.
The 16 district manager buyouts top a list that includes 11 in Editorial, four in Accounting, three in Classified Advertising and two in Customer Service.
Rank-and-file Guild members continued their long history of workplace actions by visibly showing their support for the steering committee and its mission.
Those shows of solidarity have ranged from stickers and red balloons to a one-minute moment of silence in the workplace.
The two sides were scheduled to return to the table on Tuesday, March 17.
Monthly Meeting Minutes:
President Pat Gormley called the meeting to order at 6:36 p.m, February 24, 2009. Motion/Second/Carried, Irwin/Fairbanks: To approve minutes of the January 2009 meeting as they appeared in the Frontier Reporter.
Turnbull reported on behalf of Mobilization VP Sandy Tan, who is expanding her committee and looking for even more members to join. Surveys are almost complete for the Healthy Locals Initiative and should be going out to members shortly. The 75th anniversary of the Buffalo Guild is coming up this year and a committee is exploring ways to celebrate the occasion.
Gormley distributed copies of a letter received from Dan Farberman on Feb. 14, 2009 regarding The Buffalo Newsâ€™ intention to reduce the work force. The letter cites Article 6 of the Guild contract, which outlines how and when the company can eliminate jobs to remedy the stability of the newspaper.
Gormley also detailed a meeting in Washington D.C. on Feb. 27, 2009 between Newsâ€™ management and National Guild President Bernie Lunzer and others involved with the Guild and CWA. The News intends to deliver its State of the News presentation to Lunzer.
A local steering committee will meet with News Management soon to hear about what they may be requesting from the local Guild. Gormley stressed the meeting in Washington D.C. is simply an informational expedition and no bargaining will be happening there.
Meanwhile, Gormley presented a list of members to act as aÂ steering committee to meet with management in Buffalo. The steering committee will listen to The News and hear them out as to what they might want from the Guild. The committee is comprised of representatives from all departments , including Felice McMillion of ABC, Kim Leiser of Inside Circulation, Tina Ouellette of Classified Advertising, Dick Fay and Pat Gormley of Circulation and Sandy Tan and Phil Fairbanks of Editorial. The team also will include Marian Needham of the NationalÂ Newspaper Guild and Tammy Turnbull, the Guildâ€™s Local service Representative.
M/S/C Irwin/ Stoiber: To approve Steering Committee as presented by Gormley.
Gormley also advised that the local Guild attorney is looking at the job security language and will render an opinion on its strength.
Heaney asked for Irwin to amend motion to include Heaney. He outlined his past contract negotiating skills and bargaining experience. M/S/C Irwin/Fairbanks: To include Heaney on the Steering Committee.
Tan expanded on Turnbullâ€™s previous report on mobilization, and Needham discussed the meeting in Washington attended by Newsâ€™ management and how it came about.
Heaney asked for an amendment to previous motion on Steering Committee and this time wanted Henry Davis added to the team based on his past experience at the bargaining table and past negotiating experience. Tan suggested we add people to the steering committee on an as needed basis. M/S/C Tan/Fairbanks. To add people as described above to steering committee.
M/S/C Fairbanks/Leiser: To donate $200 to the Carl Allen Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Irwin advised that the Guildâ€™s annual budget has been updated and is available for review. He also said any and all ideas on how to cut expenses are welcome.
Heaney suggested holding off on finalizing the budget until after upcoming discussions with management.
Gormley requested a motion to adjourn at 8:08 p.m M/S/C Bays /Irwin: To adjourn.
In attendance: Pat Gormley, Dave Irwin, Robert Snyder, Joe Lapi, Tammy Turnbull, Tina Ouellette, Dick Fay, Kathy Bays, Kim Leiser, Phil Fairbanks, Susan Kelley, Dan Stoiber, Felice McMillion, Brian Connolly, Brian Meyer,Â Keith McShea, Jeff Nason, Carolyn. Raeke, Jim Heaney, Carol Jones and Sandy Tan.
Excused: Beverly Gniewecki. Dan Herbeck and Kevin Zielinski.
Joe Lapi, Secretary