The amount of money
owed the worker is small -- just $112.42. But the message that underlies
the decision is a key one: the company cannot automatically shift work
to lower classifications as it puts in high tech equipment or changes
the way the newspaper is produced.
Arbitrator Mark L.
Irvings ruled the company must negotiate these changes with the Guild,
or have an arbitrator decide them.
One of the things
that swayed Irvings in this case was the testimony of Guild and company
witnesses: he found the Guild's testimony clear, but said one company
manager "equivocated" at one point, and that another manager
was "not persuasive."
The dispute over pay
because of job changes is a central issue faced not just by the Guild,
but by many workers in the "new economy" - setting fair wage
rates as jobs duties evolve with use of new computers or other new technology.
This, in fact, is
one of the major disputes in the current negotiations for a new contract.
Here's what happened
in the arbitration case:
department was created under an agreement between the Guild and the Journal
in 1996, combining the old composing room and the color pre-press department.
Former publication clerks were reclassified as "operators,"
now earning a top scale of $633.92 a week. Other classifications were
assigned work as "specialists," earning $841.09.
Among the department's
duties was creation of newspaper advertisements.
typed in text of ads and proofread the results. Specialists, assigned
to an "ad bank," physically pasted the text to a board, along
with artwork and photos.
With the switch to
pagination by 1998, paste-up ended, and ad components were assembled on
computer screens. Both operators and specialists were assigned work in
the various steps of the ad-making process.
According to Arbitrator
Irvings, the company argued that ad bank work was eliminated by pagination,
and that extra proofreading work that was assigned to ensure accuracy
of ads was akin to that which had always been done by operators.
But the Guild, according
to Irvings, said that specialists were not "working down" to
the level of operators under pagination. Further, he said the company
did not use the grievance procedure to negotiate a new pay classification.
The current case arose
when Dave Pagano, a Prepub operator, was assigned to substitute for two
weeks in the summer of 1999 for Steve Sloan, a specialist.
For one week, the
company paid Pagano the daily shift differential of $22.48, known as "small
grid" payments, for doing a specialist's work. But the company didn't
pay the differential for the other week.
The arbitrator said
that Linda Natale, a Prepub manager for two years, and Richard O'Brien,
a manager since 1999, testified about the nature of the work under paste-up
Irving noted that O'Brien "equivocated" about when specialists first began doing some tasks, and that "Natale's attempt to portray the daily work of the
and the Prepublishing specialists as identical was inconsistent with the
testimony of Pagano, Sloan, and O'Brien, and was not persuasive."
On the key issue of
changes in value of the work performed because of duties changed under
pagination, the arbitrator ruled the company had not followed the procedures
spelled out by the contract.
While the company
argued that higher-paid specialists were actually "working down"
in the less skilled tasks of operators, the company had not negotiated
or arbitrated a new classification, he said.
"Until such time
as an arbitrator rules the Prepublishing specialists are working down
to the level of Prepublishing operators, it must be presumed the wage
rate accurately reflects the complexities of the job," Irving said.
Since Pagano had worked
in the higher classification, he is due the pay differential, the arbitrator
Irving said he would
stay involved in the case to resolve similar pay disputes in Prepub that
might have occurred since the Pagano case; but he said failure to pay
small grid in cases before then could not be raised by the Guild, because
grievances are supposed to be filed in a "timely" manner.
The ruling that it
should have paid a worker $112 cost the company attorney's fees plus $1,529,
which is its half of the arbitrator's fee. The Guild's costs are being
paid by The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, which is
supporting the local's legal costs during negotiations.
In negotiations, the
company has proposed a new rate of pay for specialists and operators,
which is midway between the two categories now. (Current specialists would
continue to get their higher rate of pay).
The union's proposal is to upgrade operators to the new rate proposed by the company, and to retain the specialists' classification and higher pay rate.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495