Vol XI, No. 62 TNG/CWA Local 31041 September 11, 2000


With an arbitration hearing approaching this week, the company has agreed to settle a grievance filed after Guild bargaining unit members were short-changed vacation benefits.

Five people will receive payments, which range from $100 to $550.

The company offered to settle the matter last week, and the Executive Board approved the agreement Sunday. That avoids an arbitration hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 13.

The settlement marks a departure from the company's recent practice of taking everything to the legal limit - for example, it has gone to court (and lost) trying to overturn a grievance that the Guild already won in arbitration.

Even so, the company delayed the resolution of the matter for more than a year: the grievance was filed Aug. 3, 1999.

But despite the frustrating delay, it is a classic example of how the Guild can fight the company's penny-pinching policies - policies that often seem aimed at people who can least afford them.

Here's what happened:

An editorial assistant had her hours increased from parttime to fulltime.

But when it came time to pay her for her vacation, the company elected to pay her on the basis of her old schedule, not her new one.

We are not talking about executive washroom salary levels here.
The weekly scale for editorial assistants ranges only from $410 to $554.

When the Guild looked at this person's situation, it found four more similar instances, all people in relatively low-paying classifications.

The company denied the grievance soon after it was filed; the Guild proposed some remedies; the matter went through the lengthy process of seeking an arbitrator's ruling.

As often is the case, a settlement was proposed as the time for the arbitration hearing neared.

The settlement speeds up payments to the individuals, and it saves both sides the further costs of the arbitration process.

Reporter denied a ride to Johnston;
candidate forced to come to Journal

The taxi company used by reporters and other Journal workers today declined to take a reporter to Johnston for an election campaign interview, saying that a newspaper executive had told the company not to provide voucher rides outside the city of Providence.

The development appeared to be a response on the part of the company to the Guild's work-to-rule campaign.

As of this morning, the Guild was unable to learn from the company if there has been a change in transportation rules.

As part of work-to-rule - in which union members follow contract mandates to the letter and no more - many newsroom-based reporters, who aren't required to use their cars for company business, have been using cabs and other kinds of public transportation to get to assignments.

Some of those taxi trips have proved to be expensive.

A reporter who went to the ACI in Cranston for an interview ran up a bill of more than $30; another went to North Smithfield, for a round trip worth more than $50; a third went to a Warwick campaign headquarters to pick up a
commercial, resulting in a $55 round trip, tip included. Nearly every cab trip costs more than the minimum $5.40 per diem car allowance.

This morning, Karen Lee Ziner phoned East Side taxi that she needed a cab to go to Johnston town hall, where she had arranged to interview a political candidate, Kenneth Proulx, an independent running for U.S. Senate.

"Is that cash?" the cab official said.

No, Ziner said

"It's not allowed," the taxi company man responded. "Patricia Welker called me up and said there are no more taxis, except if you are going within Providence."

Ziner relayed this to a city editor, who said he was unaware of any change and would look into it. She then said she would ask whether the candidate would come to the Journal building. Ziner paged Proulx, who drove to the newspaper.

The result, Ziner said later, was potentially a less-well-rounded story. She had hoped to follow the candidate around, and see him working in his own environment. Further, she said, the change was rude to the candidate.

"We inconvenienced this guy," she said.

The Guild was not immediately able to find out if there is a changed taxi-use policy.

Tim Schick, the Guild administrator, telephoned Tom McDonough, the human resources chief, who said he knew reporters were using cabs, but was unaware of the situation related by Ziner. He told Schick that he would look into it.

In the past, many reporters used their own cars, even though it's often been a break-even or even money-losing proposition.

Unlike state staff bureau reporters and advertising sales persons, general assignment and beat reporters based in Providence do not get a regular monthly car allowance, nor do they get free parking.

Instead, if they use their cars to get to assignments, they pay for their own parking and then put in for a per-mile car allowance, or the minimum $5.40 per-day rate provided in the contract.

But this is entirely voluntary on the reporters' part.

Recently, for example, a Guild member who works downtown was discussing the company's car-use policy with Welker, saying it was his opinion that if a reporter used his or her car on a particular day, he or she should have downtown parking costs paid, in addition to per-mile car allowance.

When Welker disagreed, he then asked whether it would be okay to take a cab to do a story at the Central Landfill in Johnston. Welker replied unequivocally: "If you need to do a story and take a cab to the Central Landfill, we will pay for it."

Earlier this summer, Guild members discussed whether they should withdraw their personal car "fleet" as part of work-to-rule.

The Guild membership had authorized a work-to-rule program in response to the company's foot-dragging over negotiating a new contract.

Some of the reporters found the cab use quite efficient. They said it used less time, since they didn't have to hike to parking spots, and could review notes and tapes on the ride back from assignments.

For example, one reporter used cabs to go to political debates - ordering the return cab in advance so that he wouldn't have to wait to return to the newsroom, wasting valuable deadline minutes.

Schick, the Guild administrator, said that Guild members should keep records of what they are being told about transportation issues.

Guild members who run into transportation problems because of limitations placed on cab use by the Company should discuss them with their supervisors. Employees are not required to use their own money for company-related expenses. However, if you do, it is recommended that advance authorization be obtained before you dip into your own pockets.

The Guild is looking into possible contract and other legal violations by the company in regard to the incident.

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