Friday, May 18, 2007

San Francisco Guild offers plan to soften blow of proposed job cuts

* Updated
The San Francisco Chronicle told the Guild Thursday that it intends to cut 80 newsroom Guild-covered jobs and 20 management positions.

Guild representatives offered a plan to achieve the target number of job reductions through voluntary buyouts and retirement incentatives. The plan would take approximately 30 days to carry out, and would be part of an overall reorganization of newsroom jobs and functions. The buyout offers could be targeted to particular departments and classifications, and terms would be negotiated by the Guild and management. If the target number of 80 is not reached within 30 days, management could then proceed to involuntary reductions. Guild officers insisted that all contractual terms including seniority protection would have to be followed.

Although the employer generally has the right to determine the size of it's staff, Guild contracts typically cover how job cuts (layoffs) are achieved. Management must negotiate with union leadership (newsroom staffers elected by their coworkers to represent them) on the terms and conditions of the reduction in force (RIF). In some cases, the union has negotiated enhanced packages aimed at achieving the reductions on a voluntary basis thus eliminating the need for involuntary layoffs. Recently, the Tribune buyout offer was approved by the Baltimore Guild with no changes because it closely reflected the guidelines set forth in their contract.

Newsroom jobs continue to be slashed and whether it's the result of declining revenues or to improve corporate profits or both, layoffs at Guild papers must be conducted according to the existing contract. These days, some non-union papers are using union standards when reducing their staffs, so when the job-elimination hammer falls, the blow is softened with cash and extended benefits.

"Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts." —Molly Ivins

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