Guild questions new restrictions on outside work
Policy on speaking, freelancing goes beyond contract terms;
members urged to inform Guild about how it is applied
The Journal has sent to about 60 employees a new "Policy on Public Appearances" that restricts out-of-work activities in ways that go beyond what the Guild contract requires. Despite its name, the policy applies to much more than public appearances, setting limits on all outside activities.
Although the policy repeatedly refers to the Guild contract, its contents don't reflect what the contract actually states.
The Guild has notified the company that the policy may conflict with the contract, but that the Guild will not take action regarding it "until such time as an employee is disadvantaged by it."
Meanwhile, Guild members should know what the contract truly requires and how that differs from the company's stated policy. Any member whose outside activities have been questioned or restricted by the company should contact the Guild immediately by calling 421-9466.
This is important because the company's policy could reach deeply into the private lives of employees.
Here's what the contract states:
"Much of this language is subject to interpretation," said Guild Administrator Tim Schick. "When there's a disagreement, arbitrators and judges consider past practices - what the company has allowed in the past without raising any objections. Established practices carry a lot of weight in interpreting contract language."
Here are excerpts from the new company policy and an explanation of how it goes beyond the contract:
The Guild recognizes that the Journal has legitimate concerns about the integrity, ethics and reputation of its employees, especially when they are acting as representatives of the company - such as when an employee is invited to give a speech specifically because he or she works for the Journal. And there are clearly outside activities - for example, a State House reporter campaigning for a political candidate - that would be inappropriate and unethical for a reporter to engage in.
But other situations are ambiguous. The contract is written to accommodate the ambiguities in a changing journalistic marketplace, providing a forum for working out disagreements. The Journal's new policy seeks to expand the company's control over employees' outside activities beyond what the contract allows.
Because the Guild recognizes the company's legitimate interests, and because ambiguities abound, the Guild will act against the policy only when an employee reports being disadvantaged by it. Discussions could thus focus on a specific case, rather than hypothetical situations.
"What matters most," said Schick, "is how this policy is applied."
That's why it's essential for employees to keep the Guild up to date on whether and how the company enforces its new policy.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495