Thursday, January 29, 2009

Contracts talk begin; no agreement on furloughs

Guild negotiators went to the table today to start hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement at the Daily News. The current contract expires in March. Armed with proposals which are, in the union's opinion, at the same time realistic and pragmatic given the company's current condition, the team was prepared to get down to business.

According to an email sent to bargaining unit members, the company's initial proposal is aggressive - offering no raise for two years, no restrictions on managers performing bargaining unit work, a cut to the vacation accrual cap by half and a one-month unpaid furlough for all Guild-covered employees.

Mandated unpaid furlough: MediaNews negotiator Jim Janiga cited the declining economy as an explanation for the company's macabre furlough proposal. Janiga explained that a week-long furlough amounts to a 12.5 % reduction in payroll expenses for the quarter. Furloughs, he added, are unprecedented within Media News. (Furloughs are now being implemented across the chain.)
"We don't want this to all of a sudden become a regular practice," Janiga explained. "But the situation is so desperate that the if all we do is terminate and lay people off, when the business does come back, whenever that is, we will have divested ourselves of talent and we're not going to be in a position to respond as quickly when business comes back."
The bargaining team rejected the company's proposed one-month furlough language which lead to heated discussions on the company's Jan. 28 announcement of a company-wide five day furlough.

"It's clear the company's proposal is a scare tactic to ease us into accepting a five-day furlough," said committee member George Sanchez. "But we'll continue to negotiate to avoid possible layoffs and reach an agreement that's equitable for everyone."

Daily News managers have reportedly been pressuring newsroom employees to schedule unpaid time off. Sanchez said "The union's relevance became clear to me when Janiga got on the phone to order managers at the Daily News to back off union employees" regarding the furlough.

At the end of the day, no agreement had been reached on the issue. Talks continue next week.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Non-union MN employees hit with unpaid furlough*

MediaNews issued a statement today that non-union employees at all California properties will be required to take one-week unpaid furlough by the end of March, in order to lower expenses. Managers will have to take two weeks unpaid leave within the same period.

The company is interested in implementing furloughs for their union employees but such a move, it's timing and terms, must be negotiated with the Guild.

Obviously the company is in bad financial shape, and we're interested in anything that will help preserve journalism in Southern California. Our first concern is the well being of our members, and we welcome the chance to discuss the company's needs, and how they can accomplish their goals without unfairly impacting their employees.

If you have any concerns or questions on this issue, please feel free to contact your shop steward or email us at

* The Southern California Media Guild has released a statement in response to MediaNews' announcement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blog launch timed for contract negotiations start

Welcome to the Guild's newsroom blog, brought to you and supported by Southern California Media Guild members at the Los Angeles Daily News. Here you will find information on Guild activities, bargaining updates, and news of importance to our members in Woodland Hills.

As part of our introduction, we'd like to announce that the bargaining team handling our upcoming contract negotiations with the MediaNews-owned DN has been selected, and we ask you to congratulate and thank (pictured here from left) reporter George Sanchez, copy editor Chris Wiley, web producer Steve Rosenberg and page designer Andrea Hescheles for stepping forward on behalf of their bargaining unit coworkers. (All are recently-appointed shop stewards.) We're convinced that the DN negotiations will be in good hands. Supported by their Press-Telegram and Northern California BANG-EB colleagues, they will join Guild vice president Vicki Di Paolo tomorrow at the first negotiation session with the company.

Stay tuned.