Tentative agreement for Guild furloughs in Prepress unanimously approved

Guild members in the Typographical Unit representing Prepress employees at The Buffalo News voted unanimously Friday in favor of a tentative agreement that will allow Buffalo News management to furlough most members for up to five weeks.

The agreement enables Prepress members to not only gain financially, in most cases, due to New York’s enhanced unemployment benefits, but it also saves the company about $45,000 above and beyond the two-week furlough directive laid out by Lee Enterprises.

“This agreement saves the company and Lee more than twice what the company originally demanded in furlough savings, and it still protects and benefits the Prepress Guild members at The News,” Guild President Sandy Tan said. “That’s the best possible outcome.”

The Executive Committee approved the tentative agreement Thursday night, followed by two membership meetings for Prepress members in Composing, Ad Services and Advertising Operations on Friday.

Furloughs for the Typographical Unit will begin Monday, April 20, and continue through June 28. In most cases, employees will be furloughed for two weeks and may volunteer to be furloughed for up to three additional weeks for a total of five.

A key element of the agreement is that the company will cover 100% of the employees’ contributions toward their health care costs for every additional week of furlough an employee takes beyond the first two weeks. This is particularly important for Prepress members since many contribute 30% or more toward their weekly health care premiums and would have otherwise been forced to pay back huge sums to the company upon their return from furlough, creating a major financial hardship.

The furloughs will have no impact on the accrual of vacation time or count against an employee’s benefits for 2021. All employees will be returned to their previous positions and dayside or night shifts when furloughs are completed.

For any working Prepress employee who cannot be furloughed, which currently consists of a single employee whose change in job status would trigger a major financial pension liability for The News, the Guild successfully negotiated with the company to elevate an employee’s pay for two weeks so the employee will not receive less income on the job than if the individual was furloughed.

“We appreciate the company’s efforts to work with us on a proposal our members could fully support.” said Guild President Sandy Tan.

In negotiating both furlough agreements with management over the past two weeks, the Guild committed to moving swiftly and seriously if it had a partner in management open to compromise and creative solutions.

Aside from Tan, the bargaining team included Guild Administrator and Chief Negotiator Kim Leiser, Typographical Steward Karen Hipp, Vice President Aaron Besecker and Secretary Keith McShea.

The Guild has begun engaging in acts of solidarity on social media since the furloughs began for all other Guild members. That includes changing social media images/avatars to the black Guild logo, “going dark” on social media and encouraging people to subscribe to The News through a special subscription link, which makes it clear that people are subscribing specifically in support of our members.

As always, while the Guild is physically separated, all members will continue to receive important updates via email, buffaloguild.org and through our Twitter and Facebook accounts, which includes messages we encourage all Guild members to share.