Nine UMG members collect Post-Dispatch severance

As expected, several long-time United Media Guild members volunteered to accept lay-offs in place of the four reporters and one copy editor originally targeted.

The company made this announcement:

Under the terms of the United Media Guild’s collective bargaining agreement, four reporters and a copy editor were reinstated from the June 26 reduction in force. Nine members of the Guild applied for voluntary separation and the Post-Dispatch accepted. Columnist Bill McClellan volunteered but will continue to write a Sunday column. Bill’s column will appear this Friday and Sunday, and then resume Sundays only on Aug. 2 after his previously scheduled vacation.

This was the culmination of a months-long process. Here is how it broke down:

Earlier this year, the UMG and Post-Dispatch management discussed the possibility of reducing the workforce by offering long-time newsroom employees the opportunity to depart voluntarily and collect severance. After originally seeking volunteers, P-D management changed its mind and announced there would be no voluntary layoffs.

UMG leaders urged the company to reconsider, since this was an opportunity to “clear the decks” of senior journalists before the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement in September. We knew we have several members in position to either retire early or move on to other jobs.

Not long after the company proposed expedited bargaining to extend our contract, the company announced layoffs — including the four reporters and one copy editor, among other UMG members. This prompted the UMG to revisit the earlier discussions about voluntary departures, including our earlier discussion of McClellan’s situation. It became readily apparent we would get enough volunteers to cover the reporters and the editor.

After the layoffs were announced, UMG leadership discussed the parameters of the expedited bargaining. The company indicated that it would be willing to offer raises but it would want some revision of our current severance language — which allows long-time employees to collect up to 66 weeks of pay, depending on their hiring date and years of service.

Not coincidentally, we soon learned that a larger group of members wanted to leave under the current contract language. More reporters than necessary stepped up to take the severance and UMG members in other classifications also volunteered.

Ultimately the company decided to expand the layoff by taking nine volunteers. In addition, the company offered to pay severance to the originally targeted editor — even though another editor volunteered for the layoff. That editor ultimately decided to stay, along with the four reporters.