Friday, February 27, 2009

Here's the latest on Sacramento Bee Guild negotiations (updated -- Fletcher deletes post reporting "25 to 27 newsroom layoffs")

Ed Fletcher at the Sacramento Bee Newspaper Guild details Friday's goings-on:

UPDATED: Talks have been pushed back until 1:30 p.m. The company’s contract lawyer’s plane is delayed.

The guild negotiating team will meet with management at 1 p.m. today at the Vizcaya, 2019 21st. The idea going in was that we’d reach a tentative agreement that would reduce the number of layoffs management is seeking. That plan would then be taken to dues paying members.

Unfortunately, the company has not shared with us the level of cuts sought. And has been borderline non-responsive to a number of questions we’ve asked. Given that, it’s less certain an agreement will be reached today. That may affect the timing of layoffs.

Negotiations are open, so feel free to walk on down and watch the proceedings. Given the magnitude of these decisions, there is a good chance we’ll try to convene a quick meeting sometime this afternoon to get some feedback. If that happens, it will occur during a break in negotiations and there won’t be much time for notification.

Unless talks go into the evening, Ed will offer a further debriefing at Bennies after work.

In an earlier post on the Guild web site Ed said he expected 25 to 27 newsroom layoffs but he later deleted the post and said he does not want to mention a number. Maybe he got smacked down for mentioning 50 to 70 or more layoffs in a previous statement to a TV reporter?

UPDATED: From the latest Guild web site post, there is a 7 PM meeting tonite... I assume there will be an update after the meeting.

UPDATE #2: See the results here.


mcclaychy veteran said...

nice update ... this is only 7 hours old.

Anonymous said...

These poor bastards are beginning to remind me of the painful last minutes of the NYU Occupation. Seen it yet? The spokesperson/cameraman/negotiator is clearly the spawn of a DC Bureau executive.

It's in two parts and gets more pathetic the longer it goes...just like a McClatchy puff piece after the second week running.

Anonymous said...

Hey mcclaychy veteran,
Don't you go worrying about a few hours here or there. You are going to have nothing but time on your hands. Lots of time on your ass too.

Anonymous said...

From Guild Rep. Wendy Mejia.

Sacramento Bee Bargaining Bulletin:

In the history of labor negotiations between the Newspaper Guild and The Sacramento Bee few have likely been as difficult as Friday. As the newspaper industry reels from lost advertising, declining readership and a stalled economy the company brought out its proposal for wage cuts and layoffs.

In the end, following hours of talks and counterpoints back and forth across the table, the Guild’s bargaining team agreed to take the company’s package to a vote of members on Friday, March 6. The move was made without a recommendation at this time to members to vote up or down on the package.

Let’s get into the details of what members in advertising and editorial must consider within coming days:

Friday’s tentative agreement is for 34 layoffs in the bargaining unit. That is eight positions in advertising and 26 in the newsroom.

The tentative agreement was also to salary reductions that break down this way:

No change in salary for employees earning less than $25,000, - 3 percent salary cuts for those earning $25,000 to $50,000, and
- 6 percent salary cuts for employees earning $50,000 and more.

Agreement was reached on commission pay-outs under the new commission structure and a 2% salary increase to contract minimums; however, the company made it clear that payments under this new system would be retroactive to January 1, 2009, only if the tentative agreement is ratified on March 6, 2009.

The wage cuts would go into effect on April 1. They apply building wide, including the publisher and management and others beyond the bargaining unit.

The Guild was offered a painful and unpleasant choice. If its membership rejects those wage cuts for its bargaining unit, the number of layoffs would increase to 53 in the unit. That would be 16 positions in advertising and 37 in the newsroom.

The company was not interested in voluntary buyouts of the sort we had last summer at The Bee.

Human Resources Director Linda Brooks said those who are laid off will be notified in person or by telephone calls at home. If an employee is on vacation, they will rely on the emergency number on file with HR. So if your emergency number is wrong, or if you want to check who you have down as that contact, you may want to contact HR. Brooks did not specify when this process will begin, but it will not be long.

Unpaid furloughs are also a possibility. The tentative agreement included language giving the company the right to institute a week-long furlough during the second half of 2009, if necessary. Hourly employees will be able to take it in day increments, exempt employees a straight week. The company agreed to a Guild proposal that employees be given 30 days notice before furloughs begin, if they do.

Furloughs will not occur in the first half of the year. Instead, the company will reap savings by pressing people to take all vacation in excess of one week beyond their annual entitlement. For instance, employees who earn four weeks a year of vacation would have to take all accrued vacation in excess of five weeks before June.

Regarding another contentious subject now, the company pension plan: The company agreed to a so-called “side letter” to the contract, which it rejected at the last session as “unacceptable.” That enables the company to freeze the pension as proposed while the Guild continues to maintain its position that the contract does not allow this action. The company also reserves its position that it is allowed to take the action. The issue will be revisited when contract talks open on a full contract in December.

Bottom line, however, the company will freeze employee pension plans at the end of March. It does not mean your accumulated pension disappears. It is simply frozen where it is now. Employees not yet vested in the pension plan (less than 5 years service), will continue to accumulate service credit towards a pension. So if you're not yet at or very close to five years of service, all is not lost.

For those who ultimately lose their jobs during this trying time in our newspaper history the company will provide COBRA coverage for nine months, taking advantage of the Federal stimulus plan. This reduces employee contributions to 35 percent of the medical coverage. That is triple the current three months of coverage required under the contract if a bargaining unit member is laid.

It was a very difficult day for the bargaining committee, which made numerous proposals to soften the impact – nearly all of them rejected by Brooks of Human Resources and Bee labor attorney Bob Ford. Those included proposals asking for no more layoffs through the duration of this labor contract (from now until December) and also that if more layoffs happen later that severance pay is calculated at employees’ pre-April 1 salary. The committee tried its hardest to win some concessions for being asked to accept a difficult package of wage cuts and layoffs. But over and over, the company said it was an all-in-one deal necessary to achieve the company’s financial goals in the eye of a severe economic downturn.

Opinion varied on the bargaining committee regarding a choice that was unpleasant in every sense of the word. We have all heard of layoffs elsewhere, and even steeper wage cuts being asked of other newspapers, including 11.7 percent at the Denver Post and 15 percent at the endangered Seattle Times. Every day brings new reports of newspaper bankruptcies and closings such as The Rocky Mountain News on Friday. There’s no way to sugar coat it. This was crisis bargaining, nothing more. Now members must consider the options and vote. We have been told that a no vote will trigger high number of layoffs among us.

We will be having meetings next week to talk it through and chart a direction.

Your Guild bargaining committee included President Ed Fletcher and Walt Yost and Jim Wasserman of editorial and Cindi Taylor of advertising. Present and facilitating the details from the Northern California Media Workers Guild were Wendy Mejia and Linda Frediani.

mcclaychy veteran said...

if I thought it would be evenly spread thruout the news departments, with a big chunk of management and with little regard for our legendary diversity, I could handle it. but....
and yes, I know how to spell mcclatchy.

Anonymous said...

Don't sweat it Vet. All we know for sure is, this is not the last cut coming. If that is what they intended there would be no talk of deeper cuts should they not approve the deal. They are not done by a long shot. There will be at least two more rounds before bankruptcy.