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Aug 17, 2011 by Shannon Duffy
The 138 Guild members in the newsroom of the Post-Dispatch were notified Tuesday the company is seeking up to 10 volunteers to accept a layoff/buyout by September 9. The company’s is goal is achieve an undisclosed dollar figure in “savings”. They’ve stated if they do not get enough volunteers there could be involuntary layoffs to achieve their targeted “savings”.
The deal the company is offering has no sweeteners to entice employees into accepting the layoff. The offer is the same deal every Guild employee would get in the event they were laid off.
Note, in the past Lee Enterprises has made sweetened buyout offers to Post-Dispatch employees in an effort entice them into early retirement. Unfortunately Lee has repeatedly broken those promises by eliminating retiree health care coverage. Even more egregious is the fact that Lee recently filed class action lawsuits against their own retirees in an effort wiggle out the promises they made to entice employees into early retirement.
Back to the current layoff/buyout offer.
The reason for the request for volunteers is because of an article in the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement that allows more senior members – who would qualify for a lot more severance – to use the opportunity to leave or retire and thus spare younger members who do not have much seniority. In fact, in each of the past layoffs since Lee bought the paper, some members with more seniority have taken a layoff/buyout to save another member’s job. The question now is whether or not enough Guild members with high seniority will be interested in volunteering or if that pool has already been depleted by previous layoffs.
Only time will tell.
In the meantime, please check that your seniority date is correct. You can do this by calling Human Resources at 340-8065. If you find a problem with your seniority please call the Guild, 241-7046.
Things you should know: An employee slated for layoff who has been promoted from a lower classification within the previous six months, may return to that previous classification if there is an employee within the lower classification possessing less seniority, displacing the employee with the least seniority in that lower classification.
As an alternative to dismissal, if a vacancy or new job opening exists in some other classification or department which the company decided to fill, the employee, upon his or her request, will be offered the opportunity to fill that vacancy provided the employee is deemed qualified and competent by the company.
Employees who are laid off to reduce the workforce are eligible to be recalled to work. The eligibility expires after 18 months. The employee is responsible for remaining in contact with the company regarding job openings and providing the company with their current information. Guild members who wish to remain subject to rehire are asked to contact the Guild office.
Members hired on or after December 1, 1994 are entitled to one week’s severance for each year of employment up to a maximum of 26 weeks pay. Those hired before that date are entitled to two week’s pay for each year of employment up to A MAXIMUM OF 66 weeks. Severance pay for commission or base plus commission employees is based on the average commission or base plus commission for the 12 months preceding dismissal.
Other facts and figures of interest; The newsroom currently has 138 Guild members and 39 managers. When Lee Enterprises purchased the paper 2005 there were about 330 newsroom employees. According to a newsroom manager the Post-Dispatch newsroom staff peaked with a little over 400 employees some time in the mid to late 1990s.
While the current layoff will only affect those in the newsroom, sadly every other department at the Post-Dispatch has been hit by round after round layoffs as Lee Enterprises cuts expenses.
PS-On a side note for a company that is trying to save money it’s strange they choose to FedEx a signal piece of 8.5×10 paper informing employees of the layoff. Especially when most of the employees had already received the same piece of paper at work a day earlier.
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We at TNG-CWA Local 36047 strive in all our dealings to live up to the ideals that inspired our union. Today, with the media landscape seeming to change almost daily, we must fight hard to protect member’s rights, as we constantly search out new opportunities to carry this mission forward.