Thursday, January 14, 2010 Newspaper Guild Employees Claim Win in Labor Case

-By Lucia Moses
Media Week

An arbitrator has ordered Time Inc. to honor an earlier agreement that employees covered by The Newspaper Guild of New York shall not be forced to work for the company’s Web sites, according to the Guild.

The Guild had accused People of violating a 2007 agreement with the publishing giant stating that work for the Web sites be voluntary. The agreement also called for Guild employees’ workload to be adjusted accordingly if they worked for the Web sites.

The case centered on People’s L.A. bureau, which has about 20 Guild-covered staffers. The union believed conditions were the worst there. In a split decision, the arbitrator ruled that staffers, who aren’t paid overtime, can’t be compensated for extra time they put into the Web site.

Local Guild representative Bob Townsend said he was “thrilled” with the ruling, even though staffers wouldn’t be awarded back pay. “I think it’s very clear now that the staff knows the ground rules and that management knows that they’re going to have to follow the ground rules,” he said.

This all came about after editors at Time Inc.-owned Fortune and Time told their staffs that they would be required to work for the dot-com operations, and that part of their compensation would be based on that work.

The argument started in September 2008 when a People staff member e-mailed management asking whether dot-com work was mandatory. Management said yes, then wrote back again:"They're not mandatory, per se, but they're not optional either."

The guild representing Time Inc. staffers filed a complaint, covered in November 2009, citing not just increased responsibilities but increased workload as a reason why having staffers double-dip is a problem.

As of today, the dot-com work at People et al is voluntary.

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