Guild saves jobs with new Canton-GateHouse contract

From the comes news of how a strong Guild local can earn a fair contract with GateHouse:

A year of bargaining highlighted by an active Guild mobilization campaign and off-the-record talks has culminated in a new contract for members of the Repository unit in Canton, OH.

The 170-member unit, part of Local 1 of the Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild-CWA, ratified a tentative contract agreement with the GateHouse-owned Repository on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

The agreement is retroactive to 9/6/11 and will run through 9/5/14. After the sides bargained for more than 11 months, off-the-record talks that started in late July led to the settlement.

The agreement puts off, for at least two years, outsourcing the Employer was seeking. It also limits the number of jobs and departments affected, and includes enhanced severance should the outsourcing occur in two years. The Guild also agreed to some flexible part-time jobs in the mailroom, but protected full-time workers, most of whom the Employer had sought to make part-time employees with few benefits.

“Given the difficulties faced by the newspaper industry as a whole, we are satisfied we were able to reach an agreement after some difficult bargaining,” said Rollie Dreussi, Local 1 executive secretary.

“We are not happy that the agreement may result in the loss of some jobs. We are satisfied, however, that the Employer worked with us to come to an agreement that preserves jobs – for the term of the contract – the Employer had sought to outsource,” he said.

“The parties were able to compromise on a number of tough issues and reach an agreement. Our members put a lot of time and activity into trying to reach a fair and equitable agreement, and they deserve credit,” Dreussi said.

All employees will receive a $300 signing bonus. Raises to the contract minimum pay scales will only occur if annual revenue benchmarks (increases) are met. This same system did not result in any raises in the last contract.

In January, vacations will be changed from an accrual system (earn it this year, take it next year) to a granted system (earn it in the current calendar year). Employees will have vacation accrued as of 12/31/12 bought out at 60% in January 2013. (In other words, someone with 15 days of vacation will get nine days pay as a “vacation buyout” for making the switch.) Vacations will be scheduled and taken as normal; the only noticeable change will come when an employee leaves. At that time, they will only receive vacation they have earned in that calendar year.

As part of a settlement of a grievance, employees in the advertising services department can’t be laid off for two years (one year for artists). Also, they will receive enhanced severance should that occur. A manager is moved into the bargaining unit and two excluded positions are eliminated. The Employer had sought to outsource the work/jobs of the employees in that department.

Distribution jobs in several departments will not be subject to outsourcing for at least two years. The Employer had sought from the outset of bargaining to outsource these jobs and a number of others. An active mobilization campaign by the unit against the outsourcing included T-shirts, a radio ad campaign, informational picketing, yard signs and a community rally, keynoted by TNG President Bernie Lunzer and well supported by the local central labor council of the AFL-CIO.

A CWA defense fund grant helped the unit carry on its contract mobilization campaign.

While a manning clause in the traffic department for delivery truck drivers has been eliminated, any driver laid off before 12/31/12 will receive enhanced severance – up to 20 weeks pay and health care. Anyone outsourced in two years also would get enhanced severance.

As part of the settlement of a jurisdiction grievance, a photographer was returned to work, a reporter will be hired within three months of signing, and full-time editorial department employees in the Canton and Massillon (sister paper) bargaining units (covered by a content sharing agreement) cannot be laid off for one year from date of signing of the agreement.

Among other changes were: an updated part-time seniority system for layoffs; ad sales reps being exempted from overtime, but not comp time or the 5-day 40-hour week; an employee option to waive seniority and accept a layoff and severance pay if so desired; super seniority for the unit chairperson (by department); and an increase of regular severance pay from eight to 10 weeks (one week per year of service).