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Reuters to offer buyouts, cut seven jobs, consolidate desk

10/09/2013

Thomson Reuters on Wednesday said it will eliminate seven Guild-represented Editorial staff positions by Dec. 31, move the Americas editing desk from Washington to New York and offer enhanced voluntary buyout packages to all employees who have been with the company for at least 18 years.

Those eligible for the buyouts – 97 members hired before Jan. 1, 1996 and classified as Group O or 10J as of Feb. 28, 2009 – have what is called employment security under our contract (Article XVI, Section 1(b)) and are thus protected from economic reductions.

The initial offer from management, which the Guild intends to counter, is tiered based upon years of service. It includes two weeks of severance per year, paid in biweekly increments for up to one year, along with medical coverage for the term, plus the following enhancements based on date of hire: 

  • Hired between 1990 to 1995 = 9 weeks of additional pay
  • Hired between 1980 to 1989 = 12 weeks of additional pay
  • Hired before 1980 = 15 weeks of additional pay

Under management’s offer, members hired after Jan. 1, 1996 are not eligible for the enhanced severance package, but would be considered on a case-by-case basis for severance under the standard contractual terms of two weeks per year, plus medical.

Guild officers and members met this morning with company representatives to discuss the terms of the voluntary buyout packages. As yet, the Guild has not agreed to the management proposal and plans to submit a counterproposal as early as this week.

Although Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen Adler last week announced a 5 percent global cut in staffing, the company representatives did not clearly explain whether employees who accept the voluntary packages would count toward that goal, or whether their vacancies would be filled. They stressed that they did not foresee any further cuts in the number of Guild-covered jobs, even if no one were to volunteer for a buyout.

At the meeting, management also notified the Guild of its plan to eliminate seven editorial staff positions –- two New York Level 2 Journalist jobs whose work is being moved to Bangalore, and a photographer and four reporters in Miami, which is slated to become a one-person bureau.

Under our contract management must first offer all seven affected employees the opportunity to leave voluntarily with severance packages, or place them in suitable Guild-covered positions, if there are any available. Some of the affected employees would be eligible for the enhanced package, others would not.

All staff reductions, whether voluntary or forced, would be completed by Dec. 31 under management’s timetable.

At the meeting, company representatives also declared their intent to close the Americas Desk in Washington D.C. Desking operations will be consolidated in New York as of Jan. 1, 2014. Desk Editors will have the option to move to New York with company-paid relocation packages or, in some cases, to be placed in reporting positions in the Washington bureau.

New York Guild President Bill O’Meara pointed out that the timing of the buyouts, as proposed by management, would limit the options available to Washington desk editors, since they would not know if the buyout had opened any new reporting vacancies in the Washington bureau until after they themselves had committed either to a buyout or to relocating to New York. He said that was one of the issues the Guild would address in its counterproposal.

Besides O’Meara, representing Guild members at the meeting were Secretary Treasurer Peter Szekely, Guild Unit Chair-elect Pedro da Costa, Grievance Chair Dan Grebler, Washington-based Desk Editors Jackie Frank and Paul Simao, New York-based Desk Editor Steve Orlofsky and Guild Local Representative Susan DeCarava.

The company was represented by Glen Russo, vice president, labor relations; Karen Hamilton, vice president, human resources; Jim Gaines, Americas editor; Ciro Scotti, Americas deputy editor; Rob Doherty and Michael Christie, regional general managers and Richard Baum, New York general editor.

(CORRECTION, October 10, 2013: In the original issue of this Common Sense, Stephen Adler's first name was misspelled.)

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