Guild flap with Star makes Editor and Publisher

Dateline: Thu 09 Oct 2008

Thanks to reader Jim Burns, who sent the following story which is running today on the Editor and Publisher website:

"Guild: 'Indy Star' Should Have Sought Layoff Volunteers

By Joe Strupp

Published: October 09, 2008 11:50 AM ET

NEW YORK Should The Indianapolis Star have asked for volunteers before announcing specific layoffs last August? The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild thinks so.

At least in the case of five of its members that the union claims were wrongly terminated.

"There would have been volunteers, I know of three for sure," Guild President Abe Aamidor contends. "There were several others who were thinking about it."

Aamidor's comments followed this week's decision by the guild to formally seek arbitration in the layoff of five newsroom employees.

Aamidor said the Aug. 19 layoff announcement of 23 Star employees, including seven newsroom staffers, did not follow a seniority provision in the contract. He said that would have protected five of the newsroom employees who were let go.

"Layoffs have to be by seniority," he said of the three-year guild agreement that expires at the end of 2008.

The disputed layoffs include sports copy editor Mark Morrow, designer Mark Koenig, picture editor Greg Fisher, and non-reporter newsroom staffers Kathleen Singleton and Jonathon LaRosa. "Other people were hired more recently than them," Aamidor has said. "There are people who have been working at the paper for less time."((

A guild release on the arbitration request, filed Tuesday, added that a voluntary request for layoffs also would have made a difference: "In August, and in virtually every meeting we have had with management, the Guild implored the company to explore the idea of 'volunteers' for the impending layoffs. We know of coworkers who are interested in an early exit, and who wanted to spare other employees who are earlier in their careers and want to stay."

Editor Dennis Ryerson declined comment Thursday. Publisher Michael Kane did not immediately respond to phone calls.

Several Tribune Co. papers have sought volunteers for layoffs, while Aamidor contends at least two other Gannett Co. dailies did the same thing. Such practices have been put into place more in recent months as newspapers cut staff, but do not formally offer buyouts.

The Star layoffs included one week's pay for each year of service, Aamidor said. He said the next step is for the union and the paper to agree on an arbitrator.

Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is a senior editor at E&P."

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