Consolidation efforts by Lee Enterprises lead to unanticipated loss of pay and benefits for Buffalo News employees

Lee Enterprises hurriedly pushed out an error-riddled open enrollment process for employee benefits in December, despite Guild objections, in an effort to consolidate benefit services in Iowa and save money. The result? Buffalo Newspaper Guild members and other Buffalo News employees have now spent weeks suffering the financial and health consequences of Lee’s mistakes in the New Year.

All employees have been significantly shorted pay in their paychecks, and some Guild members have suffered serious consequences — including the inability to make doctor’s appointments and receive necessary medication — as a result of Lee’s actions.

This outcome was predictable given that Lee Enterprises waited until the last minute to tell Buffalo News workers that it was simultaneously changing their health care provider, 401(K) management firm, HSA and FSA management firms and payroll system.

This has caused added anxiety for a news staff and other workers who in the last eight months had to cope with a mass shooting that killed 10 people, a blizzard that killed 47 people, a fatal fire that killed 5 children and a Buffalo Bills player nearly dying during a nationally televised NFL game.

As we approach late January, outstanding issues remain with both paychecks and with health care benefits. The Guild has been working tirelessly to address all these issues and will continue to talk with management until all problems are resolved and all Guild members are made whole. The Guild has filed multiple grievances over the matter.

In the first week, Guild members were substantially shorted pay because of the omission of benefits credits. The reimbursement process to correct the matter is also flawed. In addition, many W-2 forms are incorrect and, in many cases, taxing pay at a wrong — higher — rate.

The News also has acknowledged many serious issues with the rollout of our new medical benefits, through Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. In addition, some members are being denied their medication because of transition issues with the Express Scripts program.

While the Guild works to resolve these issues as swiftly as possible, we want to remind and urge members not to delay needed appointments or filling prescriptions. Please save all copies of receipts.

If you have a scheduled appointment that is nonurgent, it would be a good idea to call your provider to make sure they take your new insurance. Further, it is worth calling Wellmark to ensure you have the coverage you think you do and that your dependents are indeed on your plan.