Friday, July 20, 2012

Big chill sets in between Gray Lady and Guild

By Keith Kelly
New York Post 
Photos added by
Broadcast Union News

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.
Labor relations between Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of the New York Times Co., and the Newspaper Guild — which appeared to be edging toward less hostility a few weeks ago — took a turn for the worse this week.

The Guild, with more than 1,100 members, has been without a contract since March 1, 2011. Talks broke off last year and only resumed following the December 2011 ouster of CEO Janet Robinson.

There were actually two contracts, one that covered 1,000 mainly print side employees, and a second one that covered about 100 digital-only editorial workers. 

The expectation has been that there would be one new contract for both types of employees. 

The talks have gone through ups and downs, but recently as more serious negotiations on issues such as the pension plan began to take place, the rhetoric appeared to be cooling off a bit. 

But earlier this week, Bill O’Meara, president of the Guild, said that the company “dropped a bomb” on the process by demanding dual contracts.

O’Meara feels the move by the Times is a prelude to declaring an impasse. 

The union boss is threatening to file grievances with the National Labor Relations Board over the digital work that many have been asked to do and said he might seek a strike authorization vote from members.

“With a possible breakthrough looming after nearly a year and half of negotiations, Times corporate management inexplicably dropped a bomb on the process [Tuesday] by presenting two new comprehensive proposals aimed at negotiating two separate contracts: print and digital.”

“Management’s dual-contract demand is a legal maneuver to preserve its option to declare the talks at an ‘impasse’ — a rarely used, draconian move that would enable management to impose its ‘last, best’ contract offer on members.”

Terry Hayes
In the past, the Times Co. has declined to discuss the labor negotiations publicly, but a day after the Guild memo, Terry Hayes, the company’s senior vice president, operations and labor, issued a lengthy memo to employees, apparently in a bid to cool down the situation.

Hayes countered that it was the Guild that dug in its heels by refusing to commit to negotiating a single contract for print and digital workers. 

“While the Guild negotiators have intimated that they, too, wanted a unified contract, when we asked them [Tuesday] to explicitly commit to negotiate a single contract that erases the increasingly irrelevant distinctions between our print and digital journalism, they refused.”

The Times had been pushing to abolish its pension plan and replace it with a 401(k) pension plan. 


Broadcast Union News Note: In a statement obtained by The Huffington Post, the Guild charged that the paper was "disingenuously" portraying its position. "What we told Times management during the July 17 talks is that we’re not waiving that right, but that we intend to continue bargaining toward a unified contract," the statement read.
Employees also hit out at the Times' response in a YouTube video, called "NY Times blows up contract talks with Guild," on Thursday. The video featured several staff members urging the paper to agree to a "fair contract."

"If corporate management continues to show disrespect for its journalists, the best and brightest will leave the Times," said staff editor Clay Risen. Dan Wakin, who has been a reporter at the Times for twelve years, added, "It's already happening."
The union has speculated that the paper wants to impose a pension freeze and increased working hours on employees through a measure called an impasse.

"If impasse is declared, the Guild would challenge the move at the National Labor Relations Board. A strike authorization vote, members' only other recourse, is another option," the Guild said in a statement on Tuesday.

Photos added by Broadcast Union News

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