«  

May

  »
S M T W T F S
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30
 
31
 
 
 
 

Did You Know?

Union Leader bypasses seniority in layoffs, rehiring in sports department; arbitration filed
Mark Hayward

 Layoffs and rehiring in the sports department at The New Hampshire Union Leader have defied seniority provisions of the Manchester Newspaper Guild's contract, creating a confrontation now headed for arbitration.

Layoffs in March hit the sports department hardest, a department that depended largely on part-time staff. All but one part-time sports writer were told their jobs were eliminated, and a full-time sports reporter was reduced to part-time status, as another full-timer had been in a previous layoff. The sports staff was left with one fulltime reporter, two laid-off full-timers working part-time, and a part-timer who retained his hours while other part-time members with more years of service were let go. The Guild filed a grievance arguing that the company ignored seniority when implementing the layoff.

Later, when one of the former full-timers left for another job, the company ignored the contract's rehire provision, posted the vacant position, interviewed several of the laid-off members and eventually rehired the member who had the least seniority prior to the layoff. The Guild filed another grievance, arguing that the company ignored the seniority rehire provision of the contract when it filled the vacant position.

The company contends the layoff and rehire language does not apply to part-time members.

“Our contract language is crystal clear,” said Norm Welsh, local president. "It says, 'Part time and temporary employees shall receive all rights and benefits of this Agreement, except they shall not qualify for, health insurance (unless available) or severance pay.' 'All rights and benefits' includes seniority and includes years of service to the company. It should be obvious that the same layoff and rehire procedures should be followed."

After getting no meaningful response from the company through the grievance process, the local has filed for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association, asking a neutral third party to rule on whether the company followed proper procedures in the layoff and subsequent filling of vacant positions. In that process, an arbitrator is presented the facts of a complaint and each side's position during a hearing, and then rules on the dispute based on the contract, testimony and evidence, and federal labor law. The arbitrator's decision is binding.

The layoff language, as it pertains to part-time employees, has been a growing source of friction between the company and the Guild in recent years, as part-time employment and layoffs have increased.

“The contract makes no distinction between full- and part-time workers when it comes to these essential issues,” Welsh said. “ Treating them differently is just not right, and the Guild is fighting it.”

Besides seeking to have its clear and unamiguous contract language enforced by the arbitrator, the Guild will seek back pay for those members who should not have been laid off based on their years of service to the company, and/or who should have been rehired first.

Local Guild leaders stress that there is no personal grudge or animosity towards those members who have remained on the schedule and who could be affected by an arbitrator's decision. Everyone wants a job, but the people who have dedicated years to the company deserve to have that loyalty returned during difficult times.

Meanwhile, the company's reductions seem to have hurt its ability to maintain talent. Both of the former full-time sports reporters recently relinquished the part-time schedules they had taken after their layoff. One has started a website devoted to high-school sports, while Kevin Gray has said he will work for WMUR, the second Guild member to go to work for the TV station recently. The company recently told the Guild that sports reporter Ian Clark will be rehired to replace Gray.

The Manchester Newspaper Guild wishes all its former workers well.