Voluntary Buyouts Avert Layoffs
As the result of a lengthy negotiating session Monday afternoon and evening, Guild and CU representatives reached an agreement on a voluntary "buyout" for up to 25 Guild-represented employees, that will provide for three weeks' pay per year of service up to a maximum of 52 weeks.
CU negotiators came to the table with a proposal of two weeks of pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 26 weeks, but the Guild committee was adamant that we wouldn't settle for less than management employees had previously been offered.
In some respects, the deal hammered out by the Guild's negotiators is better than the one that had been offered to exempt personnel. In order to qualify for the Guild incentive, for instance, an employee must have 10 years of service. The plan offered to management - and the initial proposal by CU negotiators - included a requirement that employees be 15-year veterans at CU to qualify.
Also, the departures of Guild members won't be until after the first of the year, so payments will be calculated on salaries that will include the increases due to go into effect on January 1st.
As a result of the agreement, the Publisher will guarantee there will be no involuntary reductions in force until at least March 1, 2002 if a sufficient number of people take the buyout offer.
One of the most contentious issues in the negotiation was the Publisher's insistence that it have the right to pick and choose which applications it accepts for the buyout offer. New York Guild President Barry Lipton and the team of Secretary-Treasurer Bill O'Meara, Local Representative Bob Townsend, Local Representative/In-house Attorney Jennifer Willig, Unit Chair Bill South and Unit Council Member Emilio Gonzalez were eventually able to back CU down from that concept.
Under the agreement, the language of which will be drafted Friday, the company must accept the first 20 volunteers in order of seniority with no ability to turn anyone down.
If CU officials then decide that they need more cuts, they will have the right to accept five more applications. But they must accept five - again, in order of seniority and with no right of rejection.
According to the agreement, CU, if it has a good business reason, may compel individuals to work up to another six months past the beginning of the New Year. However, retirement-age employees cannot be forced to delay their retirement under this provision.
Seniority will be determined by the total amount of continuous time at CU, whether or not that time has been spent in Guild jurisdiction.
Negotiators for the Publisher steadfastly refused a cash pay out for the three personal days that Guild-covered employees will be entitled to at the first of the year, arguing that individuals will have the opportunity to take them before leaving. It was finally agreed that anyone who is accepted for a buyout will automatically be considered to have applied for the three days off. If their managers don't allow them to schedule the three days at a mutually convenient time, they will be paid for the unused time when they leave CU.
Those accepted for the buyout will receive COBRA or retiree health coverage, whichever is applicable, at the Publisher's expense for the same amount of weeks as their payment entitlement.
If the employees in question are otherwise entitled to it, the company will not contest unemployment benefits.
When employees receive the offer from CU, they will have 45 days to consider accepting it and, after signing, another seven days to reconsider.
In connection with the payments, the Publisher has agreed that employees will have the option of placing any money allowed by law into a pre-tax 401(k) account. The Publisher is also looking into the legality of a Guild request to divide the payment into two calendar years, if the employee so requests.
And, of course, employees will be paid about for any accrued benefits, overtime, vacation or CTO, when leaving.
Employees taking advantage of the offer will be required to sign a release holding both CU and the Guild harmless and any disputes concerning this agreement will be settled under the grievance and arbitration procedure in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
A CU Membership meeting has been scheduled for after Jim Guest's Town Meeting on Thursday, November 15th. At the meeting, the particulars of the Buyout Agreement will be discussed, and all questions answered. Please make plans to attend.