The shrinking Buffalo News

The most recent News buyout led to the loss of 21 full-time Guild members, but when taken in the context of the past two years, the loss to the Guild and to the newspaper is much greater.

Since 2009, a total of 98 full-time jobs were eliminated across all Guild-represented departments through layoffs and buyouts.That figure does not include Guild positions left vacant because of promotions, routine turnover and other retirements.

To remind management of these losses, we ask all Guild members to prominently display table tents this week, titled the “Incredible Shrinking Buffalo News.” We also ask Guild members to continue to wear their Guild lapel pins daily.

While the union will always prefer to see people leave on their own terms, we continue to worry about the long-term needs of the paper and the people who remain to keep this newspaper business running.

This brings us back to our original bargaining position: We simply want what’s fair. Guild employees who continue to work here are working harder than ever to keep this company afloat. We deserve wages that offer a reasonable standard of living, health insurance that employees can afford, and safeguards that protect the quality of journalism we produce.

We’ve certainly done our part to meet management’s demands.The Guild has already exceeded The News’ $1.8 million cost-cutting goal.

 Last week, the company told the Guild that the final savings figure from the buyouts and other changes was $1,867,856.That amount includes the salary and benefits of 21 members who took the buyout, and as well as savings from three former Guild members who recently took positions in management.

The company also announced that eight managers took the buyout, producing an additional savings for The News of about $786,000 in salary and benefits.

With its cost-cutting goal met, management said it would no longer seek a host of concessions, including wage reductions, fewer paid days off, reductions in differentials, less holiday pay, lower mileage reimbursement, and further reductions in full-time district manager salaries. However, a number of economic issues remain on the bargaining table.

In terms of the company’s overall finances, management also provided figures through the end of July. The year-to-date operating profit through the end of July was $5.29 million, compared to $11.4 million for the same period in 2010. Management also noted that this July had five Sundays, as opposed to the four Sundays last July. Sundays are typically the largest moneymaker for the company.

The two sides met on Wednesday this week, but there are no bargaining sessions scheduled for the rest of August or the first two weeks of September.The Guild andThe News agreed in May at the start of negotiations to take these weeks as vacation, and scheduled their next bargaining session for Sept. 14.

Over the past week, both sides have continued to discuss and negotiate a number of issues:

• Health insurance:The company is still considering the Guild’s proposal to buy health insurance through the United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund, which sells policies through Blue Cross Blue Shield ofTennessee.The company’s initial reaction to the Guild’s proposal was generally favorable, and management continues to research the issue.

The company has also told the Guild it has asked for bids from Independent Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York. The bids are expected in the next couple weeks.

• Insourcing:The company wants to be able to bring new work into Circulation, Inside Classified Advertising’s inside and outside sales divisions and Accounting/Bookkeeping/Credit at lower wage rates than currently paid in those departments.

• Call monitoring/call recording:The company wants a policy that allows it to discipline employees through the use of monitored calls.

• Reporters shooting photographs: Management has proposed that reporters be able to be assigned to take headshots and “routine” photographs. 

A number of other proposals from management also remain.

These include: create a new classification in Accounting of a part-time clerk to be scheduled at management’s discretion without a weekly schedule; allowThe News to outsource work currently performed in Classified, Circulation and Accounting; and establish a second tier of employees in Groups A, B, C and D inEditorial to be paid at 50 percent of what current reporters and editors receive.