Vol XI, No. 42TNG/CWA Local 31041April 27, 2000

Work-to-rule authorized by Guild membership

A loud `yes' vote clears way for action; Executive Board will decide when to start

In a resounding voice vote, the Guild membership yesterday approved a work-to-rule program.

Following 20 minutes of discussion, a standing-room only crowd at union headquarters gave a loud "yes" to the question of whether to authorize the work action. There was just one "no" heard.

Tim Schick, the Guild's administrator, said that work-to-rule will not be put into effect until after the next negotiating session with the company, scheduled for May 3.

"If the company responds positively at the bargaining table, we will hold back," Schick said. "If it thumbs its nose at us, okay, we'll push the button."

THE UNION FIRST BEGAN discussing a work-to-rule program three months ago, when a previous membership meeting asked the executive board to schedule a special vote on the proposal.

Since then, union leaders have held a series of small meetings, as well as one-on-one discussions with members to outline the plan, and to get feedback.

Between 50 and 60 members attended a series of four luncheons this week and last week at the Guild office.

Under a work-to-rule program, union members would be asked to strictly observe the demands of the contract - putting in a full day's work, but no more.

A likely impact would be to increase the cost and effort of putting out the newspaper.

Work-to-rule is seen as one of several efforts by the union to increase pressure on the company at the bargaining table.

There was no spoken opposition to the program, although several persons said they were concerned with how it would work.

FOR EXAMPLE, one union member asked whether one employee in a work group might be singled out for punishment if he or she was working-to-rule, but others weren't.

John Hill, secretary of the Guild, said that before work-to-rule is implemented, the Guild will try to meet with specific departments to discuss details of how it will work, so that union members will not be isolated in carrying out the work-to-rule program.

Felice Freyer, an executive board member, said that it could take a while to tailor the details of the plan, but that it is likely to have an economic impact on the newspaper.

"We can do this," Freyer said. "This is a very powerful tool."

Steve Sloan, an executive board member, proposed a vote by referendum ballot, saying that it was possible that some members were not able to attend the noon-hour meeting.

But several others argued that a mail ballot might take too long, and that the union wanted to have the authorization in place prior to the next negotiating session.

Further, several union leaders said that the extensive discussions that had been held before yesterday's meeting disclosed little opposition to work-to-rule, reinforcing the belief that support is widespread.

Prior to the work-to-rule vote, Schick outlined the union's approach to the upcoming negotiating session.

"We plan to make a new proposal that will take into account the pension and 401k changes that the company is planning for non-union people," he said.

However, Schick said because the company has not furnished all of the information the Guild has requested, the union cannot make as detailed a proposal as it would like.

ASKED ABOUT whether the new pension plan might be a factor in the Guild negotiations, Schick said that "we've been getting mixed signals" on the issue from the company.

He said that on one hand, there are indications that it might be offered to he union; but publicly, the company has been saying it is not being extended to the Guild.

Schick was asked whether the Guild will resist the company's efforts to lob off one of the union's current 11 paid holidays. He said that the union's position on that will depend on what other benefits are part of an eventual settlement.

One member noted that there was no gainsharing bonus paid for last year's performance, and asked whether that was a dead issue.

Schick said that the union has asked the company for the statistics that it used in declining to pay the bonus, and that yesterday, the company replied, "it is too difficult to provide us that information."

The administrator said that the union would propose a "signing" bonus as part of a settlement for a new contract, equivalent to 2.75 percent of annual salary - which is the amount of a different kind of bonus paid non-Guild workers.

There was a question about whether the company will demand that all grievances be settled as part of an agreement on a new contract.

Schick said the company's position has been that the union drop all grievances. He said that the union favors resolving grievances if "equitable settlements" can be worked out. But he said simply dropping them is not acceptable.

The Guild will be prepared to discuss all the major issues at the next negotiating meeting, Schick said.

The work-to-rule vote came during a regularly scheduled membership meeting at which nominations were taken for annual election.

ALL FOUR OFFICERS - Bob Jagolinzer, president; Jeff Andrade, vice president, John Hill, secretary, and Greg Smith, treasurer - were nominated without opposition, and thus will continue in office another year.

Nine persons were nominated to seven positions as at-large executive committee members. If all stay in the race, an election will be held in May. One person withdrew after the meeting. Those remaining are: Tom Bunn, Felice Freyer, Kerry Kohring, Claire LaRue, Ellen Liberman, Steve Sloan - incumbents; and Karen Senerchia and Brian Jones.

Seven persons were nominated to the seven positions on the Unit Council, meaning they will form the council without an election. They are: Mark Arsenault, Joe LaPlante, Susan Quackenbush, Sheila Lennon, Lisa Helwig, Dick Dujardin and Paul Davis.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495