Get Me Rewrite

Times Union publisher declares an impasse in contract negotiations, a move the newspaper guild says it will challenge

Times Union publisher George Hearst declared an impasse Tuesday night regarding ongoing contract negotiations with the Albany Newspaper Guild. In an e-mail sent at 6 PM Tuesday, employees were notified of the declaration and told that the recently rejected contract proposal—voted down Sunday and Monday with a 125 to 35 vote—would be imposed effective June 24.

Albany Newspaper Guild president Tim O’Brien said that this action is punishment for guild members voting ‘no’ on what he calls an “awful” contract proposal.

“This is union busting, pure and simple,” O’Brien said. “We have worked hard to offer concessions and the publisher has given his employees the back of his hand.” The contract that will be imposed June 24 will permanently end the collection of dues and the right of the guild to take grievances to arbitration, as well as take away the $500 proposed annual bonus for employees.

O’Brien said that the union will take legal action.

“We believe we are not at an impasse,” he said. “The fact that he [Hearst] isn’t getting exactly what he wanted exactly the way he wants it is not an impasse.”

This declaration is the latest move in an ongoing conflict between the Times Union and the Albany Newspaper Guild. The Times Union canceled its contract with the guild in April over contract disputes regarding proposed layoffs and outsourcing of jobs. The contract rejected by the guild earlier this week was the “best and last offer,” according to Hearst. In the letter sent to O’Brien declaring the impasse, Hearst writes: “Specifically, the parties have been deadlocked over fundamental differences concerning . . . layoffs and subcontracting. . . . You propose further meetings to discuss proposals which would require the Company to compromise on these two essential issues. We are not willing to entertain any further compromise on these issues.”

“The fact of the matter is that when we had our vote, I walked into his office,” O’Brien said. “That’s the professional thing to do. Sending an e-mail through his secretary at 6 o’clock at night, that’s disrespectful.”

O’Brien is mostly concerned about impending layoffs.

“We believe that this means, come June 24, he’s going to start the process of laying people off,” O’Brien said. “We do intend to meet within the next week to go over exactly what it is that he proposes to do and what his time line is.”

According to O’Brien, the Times Union is required to give 45 days’ notice of layoffs, and that the guild has the right to bargain during that 45-day period over who’s on the layoff list and over any jobs that the Times Union seeks to outsource.

“We will be going to the national labor relations board to challenge the declaration of impasse,” he said. “We also will continue mobilizing membership and the community. The community has been very clear that this type of behavior is not acceptable in the Capital Region.”

O’Brien said that, should the impasse go through on June 24, they will hand in hundreds of cards canceling the subscriptions of people wishing to boycott the newspaper.

“We didn’t want to go there,” he said, “we offered compromise. He’s forcing our hand, and he was forewarned that, if he did this, this would be the result.”

George Hearst did not return a phone call for comment.

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