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ProJo union trying to work with management to avert layoffs

September 14, 2012

The Providence Newspaper Guild sent a letter to Providence Journal management, suggesting the two sides work together to find savings that could preclude layoffs at the statwide daily.

According to a letter distributed today to members of the Guild, the largest union at the ProJo: 

The company said it was interested in the idea, but wouldn’t be able to respond with specifics until after the first week of October.

Journal management announced September 7  the latest in a series of buyouts that have winnowed the paper’s staff. The deadline for signing up for the buyout is 5 pm Monday. Management says layoffs might be necessary if enough of an unspecified number of workers don’t take the buyout.

Guild president John Hill, a ProJo reporter, says the number of union members signging up for the buyout is fluid, since people can change their mind before Monday’s deadline.

He says it’s difficult to make decisions when the union doesn’t know how many job cuts are being targeted by management.

Here’s more on the offer made to mangement by the Guild:

“If the company is contemplating downsizing or layoffs that may affect our members, the Guild would like the opportunity to meet and discuss alternatives that would mitigate the impact on our members.”

Thomas McDonough, vice president for human resources and labor relations said the offer from the Guild was helpful but added any discussion would have to take place after the first week in October.

There have been no negotiations, formal or informal.

“No proposals have been proposed, no commitments have been made,” […] Hill said. “But we felt, with so many of our members worried about either their own jobs or the future viability of the Journal itself, it was crucial that we get it on the record that we need to be heard from before anything is decided.”

Even if the Guild wanted to formulate a proposal at this time, without a specific dollar target for the downsizing effort, it’s impossible to know what to propose.

ProJo staffers report a glum environment as employees debate whether to accept the buyout.

According to the letter distributed by the Guild:

If some kind of concession agreement were possible, and if it could be negotiated, it would have to be submitted to a vote by the full membership of the Providence unit.

The Guild plans on using the weeks before October to evaluate what, if anything, we’re willing to sacrifice. We’ll try to get you a questionnaire next week seeking your opinion on some of the obvious things, like unpaid furlough days and temporary pay cuts, as well as asking for your own insights into what might be possible.

It’s easy to think the depression-like conditions we’ve been living under for the past four years will be permanent, but they won’t be. The national economy has slowly, excruciatingly slowly, been climbing out of the hole dug in 2008. In another year it may well have produced a tide high enough to float this boat. Our mission, as the people who work here, the people who make this newspaper a humane institution, is to make sure that when that day comes, we have a boat worth floating.

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