Newspaper Guild Digs In on Seniority Issues
We told you Wednesday that contract talks had reportedly stalemated between Interstate General Media and the union that represents the journalists at the Inquirer and Daily News — apparently over issues related to the “last in, first out” seniority system that protects long-tenured (but expensive) employees from being laid off against their will.
Wednesday night, members of the Newspaper Guild’s negotiating committee emailed member journalists with an update on negotiations, re-emphasizing that they don’t plan to bend on that particular matter. “Seniority … is not for sale,” they wrote.
Full memo after the jump:
Dear Guild members:
As we take a bargaining pause until Wednesday, we wanted to use this opportunity to attempt to illuminate that which, by its nature, is a very shrouded process.
Negotiating a contract is a matter involving so few, yet it impacts so many. And for those of you who are relatively recent hires at Interstate General Media, it’s likely a foreign process.
But this time around, the process is foreign even to those of us on the Guild Bargaining Committee who have been negotiating contracts for Guild members at the Inquirer, Daily News and, more recently, Philly.com, for years. We are flummoxed over the company’s single-issue focus – weakening seniority – which the company prefers to describe as an attempt to gain more “flexibility.”
The Guild Bargaining Committee has resisted this weakening for a very simple reason – seniority is the core principle of the union movement. That is because it is the fairest, solely objective way to assess an employee’s contribution to the company. It’s protection from office politics or a boss that just doesn’t like your quirks. For the young, it accumulates like savings.
At a time when Interstate General Media has so many issues to address, at a time when the Guild Bargaining Committee came to the table with hopes the discussion would be dominated by proposals that would lead to increased revenues and better journalism, the company’s obsession has been on preparing for layoffs.
Rather than inspire enthusiasm for what could be, the company has caused fear among the Guild Bargaining Committee that the future is one of job eliminations and of pitting Guild members against each other in a value-measuring exercise the parameters for which the company has been unable to articulate.
How would you go about deciding which Guild members would be compared in determining who had more valuable skills?
What do you envision being the more valuable skills?
How does such so-called flexibility translate to greater revenue?
What revenue gain does the company envision from such ability to dismiss Guild members with such abandon?
To all those questions the company has offered no clarity.
Not that any answers would sway us. Seniority – the protection from indiscriminate treatment by employers – is not for sale, not here at Local 10 of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia.
The company’s persistent pursuit to weaken it has been frustrating and disappointing. Meanwhile, the company is telling us that time is of the essence to stem our circulation declines, grow our revenue, enhance our mobile market penetration and, most importantly, serve our readers with the best possible journalism we can deliver.
It is the kind of journalism, with Guild members of varying levels of seniority working together — seasoned veterans mentoring the more-junior journalists and more-recent hires showing longer-term colleagues new moves — has been a winning formula at this great institution for decades. Why should it now be under attack?
Seniority is not the cancer at our news organization. Now let’s get on with addressing what ails us — with creativity and talk of growth, rather than plans for future eliminations.
Thanks for your support and humbling dedication to this business,