Archive | April, 2012

Guild Statement On Newsroom Layoffs

30 Apr

WE AT THE DENVER NEWSPAPER GUILD consider ourselves partners with Denver Post management in the effort to position the newsroom and the company to thrive in the new media environment. However, we disagree in the strongest possible terms with the company’s decision to lay off two-thirds of the paper’s copy editors. We feel it is a shortsighted cost-cutting measure that will irreparably damage The Denver Post.

A news organization serves a vital public role and must be viewed through a more complex lens than one that reduces the operation to just a bottom-line figure. For generations, professional editors represented by the Guild have helped make The Denver Post a trusted news source. This decision by the company could very well erode that hard-earned trust.

The media landscape continues to shift as new technologies demand new business strategies, but one thing must remain constant during this transition period: credibility. We understand the company needs flexibility to make decisions quickly, and we have afforded the company that flexibility with a labor agreement that allows the company to change newsroom operations and reduce the workforce. However, the Guild has serious doubts that the decision by management to slash the ranks of copy editors will result in a more efficient newsgathering process. Instead, we believe it will result in a loss of credibility as more mistakes and errors appear in print and online.

The Denver Post’s reputation is at stake.

The Guild will continue to advocate on behalf of not only Denver Post staff, but Denver Post readers.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan

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Newsroom Bargaining: Session Eleven

24 Apr

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GUILD newsroom unit and management met April 24.

This latest session, as well as our previous session, was focused solely on a company plan to streamline how we produce content. The company notified us during negotiations that they intend to reduce copy editors and other copy-editing-related positions. This does not mean our stories will no longer be copyedited. However, this plan will result in a change of workflow that will affect nearly every position in the newsroom. This is an action the company is pursuing under the current contract.

While the company’s plan will be a major change from how The Denver Post has operated, this move is not unprecedented in our industry. In 2010, The Minneapolis Star Tribune eliminated their copy desk. Closer to home, The Daily Camera in Boulder has operated for several years with no copy editors. In no way does this mean the change will be all for the better.

It is important to realize that the details have not been finalized. The bargaining committee will continue to offer input as this plan takes shape.

We encourage all members to attend Monday’s (April 30) staff meeting at 4 p.m. in the first-floor auditorium. Greg has promised to talk in more detail about the plan and take questions.

Our next bargaining sessions have been scheduled for May 8 and 9.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan

Non-newsroom Bargaining: Session Ten

19 Apr

DENVER NEWSPAPER GUILD and Denver Post representatives met April 11.

Management explained their proposal regarding sales support work. Management proposed to eliminate the positions of Sales Assistant and Media Sales Coordinator and to create a new position called Multimedia Sales Coordinator to perform the combined work. Currently, there are 12 Sales Assistants and eight Media Sales Coordinators. Under their proposal:

  • There would be 12 positions, resulting in the reduction of eight employees.
  • Incumbent employees who are interested in the new position would need to apply and interview for the position.
  • Current employees who are hired would be placed on a 90 day probation period that could be extended 45 days.
  • The position would pay $20 an hour.
  • Current employees who are hired would be grandfathered at their current pay rate if that rate is higher than the new pay rate.
  • Those employees who don’t apply or are not selected for the position and those who don’t make it through probation would be paid severance.

Union committee members voiced their opinion that 12 people would not be enough to perform the work and argued that requiring current employees to apply for the jobs was not appropriate.

The issue will be further discussed at a later date.
Kathy Rudolph
Sam Johnson
Maureen Shively
Michelle Miller
Tom Peterson
Laurie Faliano
Paulette Shrefler
Tony Mulligan

Newsroom Bargaining: Session Ten

11 Apr

REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GUILD and management met again April 11. We discussed the latest developments regarding Thunderdome and the previously discussed/proposed regional design centers.

The regional design center plan has been put on hold. Instead, the focus is on exploring efficiency and cost-cutting measures at the individual properties, including The Denver Post.

We have scheduled our next bargaining session for April 24.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan

Non-newsroom Bargaining: Session Nine

11 Apr

DENVER NEWSPAPER GUILD and Denver Post representatives met April 10.

Management explained their prior proposal regarding productions maintenance positions.

Management had proposed to eliminate the positions of Building Maintenance Mechanic, Machinist and Electrician I, II and III. Under their proposal:

  • Those positions would be replaced with one position titled Production Maintenance Technician.
  • The number of positions would be reduced from 20 to 16.
  • Current employees would need to apply for the new position.
  • Current employees who are hired would be grandfathered at their current pay rate.
  • Current employees who are hired would be placed on a 90 day probation period that could be extended 45 days.
  • Those employees who don’t apply or are not selected for the position and those who don’t make it through probation would be paid severance.
  • New hires in the position would start at $23 an hour and top scale would be $25 an hour.

Management’s proposal was to create a new position under language in the current contract, not to wait to implement the change when a full agreement is reached. They explained that several companies have moved to this model to gain efficiencies, therefore saving money on staff.

The union committee presented a verbal counter proposal. Under the union’s proposal:

  • One lead may direct the work of employees in all production maintenance job titles working on a shift.
  • All production maintenance employees may be assigned to any work in the production maintenance department that they are capable of performing and can be assigned to assist on any work for efficiencies and in order to learn that work.
  • Reduce the staff by making separation offers to production maintenance employees that management believes may not be able to learn and perform all production maintenance work.
  • Delete the provision preventing electricians from being assigned to perform manual labor.

Management accepted the flexibility proposed by the union and dropped the idea of having current employees apply for the new combined job. They rejected the idea of offering buyouts and informed the union that they will be announcing a layoff of four production maintenance employees. Management will discuss the expectations in production maintenance going forward and the option to resign or retire with severance available to all production maintenance employees. The flexibility will be implemented immediately.

Talks will continue regarding the possible implementation and pay of one job title encompassing all production maintenance work.

The company’s proposal to outsource circulation call center work was also discussed. The union committee questions the accuracy of some numbers being used to compare outsourcing to the current operation. Management agreed to review those numbers. Call center work will be discussed again on May 8.

Kathy Rudolph
Sam Johnson
Maureen Shively
Michelle Miller
Tom Peterson
Laurie Faliano
Paulette Shrefler
Tony Mulligan

Newsroom Bargaining: Sessions Eight and Nine

2 Apr

THE NEWSROOM GUILD bargaining committee and management representatives met Tuesday, March 27, and Wednesday, March 28, to continue collective bargaining talks.

Communications Workers of America District 7 counsel, Richard Rosenblatt, joined us at the table both days.

Newsroom layoffs were fresh in all our minds. Although the latest layoffs were technically outside the scope of our current negotiations, Tom McKay made a statement about the layoffs. Missy Miller and Kevin Dale responded and we had a brief discussion.

The company then presented us with a handout suggesting how contract language might to altered to achieve the company’s goal of making sure that the employees remaining after a staff reduction are the ones best able to do the remaining and future work.

A wide-ranging discussion followed. Some of the things we talked about included:

  • Specific terms in the handout. Rosenblatt, in his lawyerly way, questioned some of the terms. He also argued the value of using seniority.
  • The issue of whether the company has an obligation to provide training so employees can acquire additional skills.
  • The creation and use of performance appraisals.
  • The possibility of collapsing job titles.
  • The possibility of expanding duties.
  • The value of subjectiveness in a creative environment such as the newsroom.
  • The need to communicate expectations and notify employees of deficiencies.
  • Checks and balances in the layoff process.
  • A transitional period and the number of appraisals that must be performed before appraisals could be used in deciding who is laid off.
  • How much weight later evaluations should carry over earlier evaluations.
  • The idea of limiting layoffs to job titles within departments of the newsroom.
  • What those newsroom departments might be.
  • How much of the above can be accomplished under our current contract.

By the end of our session Tuesday both sides had informally agreed that there is potential value in a carefully-crafted and well-implemented evaluation process. However, there is still much discussion that must be done.

Wednesday’s session began with more discussion about the latest newsroom layoffs. We then spent the bulk of the session conceptualizing newsroom workflow. We looked at high-concept views of the steps involved in publishing a story. Both our present workflow and potential future workflows were discussed.

We finished Wednesday talking about equipment. We tried to identify equipment and services that are and will be needed by the newsroom.

No additional bargaining dates have been set.

Updated April 6: A bargaining date of Wednesday, April 11, has been set.

Thomas McKay
Sara Burnett
Kieran Nicholson
Jim Ludvik
Kyle Wagner
Kevin Hamm
Tony Mulligan