Vol XIV, Issue 3 TNG/CWA Local 31041 April 8, 2003
ProJo, Guild Discuss Procedure for Release of Contract Details

Guild Membership Meeting
Noon Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Nominations for Executive Committee & Unit Council
Contract Bargaining

Guild members may get to see the company's off-the-record contract offer after all.

Following a formal letter requesting permission to show the company offer to members and a three-day petition drive that collected more than 235 signatures, Journal Human Resources Director Thomas McDonough wrote Guild Administrator Tim Schick that under certain circumstances, the company might be willing to publicly release its offer.

The Executive Board met yesterday and promptly authorized Schick to meet with company negotiators as soon as possible to see if both sides could agree on a procedure. Meeting dates of April 9, 10, 11 and 14, 15 or 16 were proposed.

Though the negotiations that led to the company's latest offer were confidential, the Executive Board wants any talks on the release procedure to be done on the record.

The Guild has been pressing the company for weeks for permission to show its latest offer to the membership. That effort culminated with last week's petition drive, which collected more than 235 signatures.

The petitions asked that, "in the interest of good faith in employee relations," the company allow the rank and file members of the Guild "to review the contract proposals so we can advise our union leadership on how to proceed."

The petition a was swift success, attracting signatures from all departments over a three-day period. (Any members who were not approached about signing may contact the Guild office at 421-9466 or call John Hill in the Lincoln news bureau, Felice Freyer in the newsroom or Jordan Malik and Jeff Andrade in advertising about getting their name on it.)

Neither the Negotiating Committee nor the Executive Board feel they can endorse the company's proposal. But executive board members also feel that after six months of secret talks and more than three years of no raises, members have earned a chance to see what is being proposed and to advise their union leadership on how to proceed.

But that is impossible without the company's cooperation. Journal negotiators have taken the position that nothing can be released without both sides' agreement, and they have aggressively complained about anything they perceive as a violation of the confidentiality of the talks.

For instance, in February, a week before the Follies, a story in the Providence Phoenix ended with a quote from Schick (a quote that was the result of a reporter's question) confirming that the off-the-record talks were continuing, something that was widely known. Schick said that there had been progress, though it was slow, and added that the union wouldn't be meeting if it thought the effort was a waste of time.

Those remarks were pretty much what publisher Howard Sutton had said at an employee meeting with Belo Chairman Robert Decherd late last year, a meeting at which Sutton said he was optimistic about reaching an agreement "with our friends in the Guild".

Yet when our representative said essentially the same thing, the company fired off an angry letter accusing us of breaking our word and engaging in a major breach of confidentiality

Guild tells ProJo it must bargain
over ethics policy

The company's recent announcement of its new Belo-wide ethics policy doesn't apply to Guild members because it was not negotiated, the Guild has informed the company.

The Guild is willing to sit down and discuss the terms of an ethics policy concerning its members, the union told the company, but it would have to be a policy created by negotiation, not imposed unilaterally by the company.

In a March 28 letter to Human Resources Director Thomas McDonough, the Guild pointed out that any policies that could affect the terms and conditions of a Guild member's employment must be negotiated by the Guild.

"Unilateral changes in conditions of employment without bargaining are a violation of the National Labor Relations Act,'' the letter said. Last year, a federal judge ruled the company's previous unilateral actions were among some two-dozen violations of the National Labor Relations Act.

Ironically, one of the ethics and conduct policies requires Belo employees and managers to obey the law.

The Guild told the company to discontinue immediately any application of the "code of business conduct and ethics" to Guild bargaining unit employees. The letter also advised McDonough that the Guild is willing to bargain over the code.

The Guild is not against an ethics and conduct policy. But the Executive Board also feels that any new rules that could lead to an employee being disciplined or even fired must include adequate due process protections. That will make sure that any ethics rules are fairly enforced and that an employee has a chance to defend himself or herself when facing prosecution.

Copyright © 2002 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495