Friday, November 10, 2006

Layoffs at East Bay Newspapers

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 10, 2006 at 3:24 PM

MediaNews announced a plan to lay off eight newsroom employees on Monday at its ANG Newspapers chain, which includes the Oakland Tribune, Daily Review of Hayward, Argus of Fremont and Tri-Valley Herald. The company says it will lay off two photographers, a staff writer, a business writer, a graphics designer, two part-time copy editors, and a high school sports writer, according to a memo sent Wednesday to the Northern California Media Workers Guild, the union that represents ANG newsroom employees. The layoff announcement follows layoff notices by MediaNews at the San Jose Mercury News. Layoffs also are expected at the MediaNews owned Contra Costa Times.

MediaNews has said the layoffs are due to declining advertising sales and are a part of its business consolidation plan. When MediaNews purchased the Merc and the Contra Costa Times earlier this year, CEO Dean Singleton said he had no immediate plans for layoffs. But some news media observers noted that the company could achieve cost savings by eliminating duplicative work among its South Bay and East Bay papers.

MediaNews originally planned to lay off the eight ANG employees on Friday, but union officials convinced the company to delay the move until Monday. That way, employees who wish to be laid off could volunteer -- as per the union contract. But these volunteers must currently hold one of the eight positions that MediaNews plans to eliminate. Union official Josh Richman saidThursday that they have identified one "potential" volunteer already. "We would have preferred that they gave us two weeks notice so that we could caucus with our members," said Richman, who also is ANG's political reporter. Nonetheless, he said reporters, photographers, and copy editors had been bracing for a much bigger layoffs, noting that MediaNews plans to layoff 40 newsroom workers at the Merc. "While we're never happy when we're getting downsized, we're cognizant that things could be worse."

The ANG layoffs also come on the heels of an announcement last week that the Tribune plans to vacate the 20-story Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland. Business and advertising staffers will relocate to a giant services center at Bishop Ranch Business Park in San Ramon, along with staffers from the Merc and the CC Times. But Trib newsroom employees, according to one source, will be moved to an office building along Interstate 880 across from the Oakland Coliseum. ANG also owns the San Mateo County Times.

The memo from the guild is here:

    Northern California Media Workers Guild/Typographical Union, TNG-CWA 433 Natoma Street, Third Floor San Francisco, CA 94103 415.421-6833 FAX 415.421-3751

    To all Guild Represented Employees:

    We heard from management late yesterday evening that the company intends to lay off 8 bargaining unit employees this coming Monday. As you will see in the memo that follows, we know the positions that will be affected, but not the names of the specific employees.

    In the last round of contract negotiations we established new layoff language, the intent of which was to allow us to work together with management and among ourselves to achieve the best of all possible outcomes for ANG employees facing the difficulties of layoff. One of the ways we can do this is to solicit voluntary layoffs -- i.e., employees volunteer to be laid off and then receive the same severance as would the employee targeted by the company. In discussions with management this afternoon, the company has agreed that they will honor the terms of the contract and consider volunteers and that they will grant such volunteers severance as if they had been chosen for layoff. The people volunteering must be employed in the jobs listed in the layoff notice (below). If you fall into one of those job categories and you have been considering a career move, you may wish to explore this as an option. We know that this is a very difficult decision to make it's hard for us to even ask, but we would rather give people the choice than have it be made for them, where it is at all possible. In no way does this mean that the Guild is mandating that anyone MUST take a bullet for someone else; it is simply an option that might work out best for some people and take the pressure off of others.

    There is one problem with volunteering: you need to do it quickly. If you have questions, you should talk to one of the ANG Guild unit officers as soon as possible, and then notify Karen Austin in human resources. You will only have until Monday morning. The company was going to do the layoffs on Friday, but has agreed to extend until Monday to give people time to think it over.

    If you end up being one of the people laid off (voluntarily or otherwise), there are a few things that you should know: The Guild will work with any individual who is tapped for layoff to ensure that their rights under the contract are honored. You do not have to be a member to request our assistance. The San Jose Guild local is also facing layoffs, and we are working with them on plans to help impacted employees. This will include getting people information on unemployment, services provided through the labor council, resume writing seminars and job boards, among other things. This local is also working with local labor councils to ensure that services that are county based are available to you. Together, we will try to make this go as smoothly as possible.

    Please talk to your Guild reps if you have concerns or ideas. You can call or email your Local Representative, Erin Poh at 415-421-6833 or at

    Your unit officers are Paul Rosynsky - x6455, Jane Tyska - x2487 and Josh Richman - x6428

The memo from MediaNews/ANG Newspapers is here:

    Dear Erin:

    Due to continuing economic conditions, ANG Newspapers will unfortunately need to enact a reduction of staff throughout the company. Specifically this reduction will include eight (8) guild represented employees.

    In accordance with the notice provisions of Article XII of the contract, layoffs, the bargaining unit employees affected will be notified on Friday, November 10, 2006. In consideration of employees' skills, past performance and the needs of the company following this reduction, the following positions have been identified and will eliminated:

    Graphics, Photographer (2), Business Writer, Staff Writer, Part Time Copy Editor (2), Prep sports.

    Effective November 10, 2006 each employee will be paid severance in accordance with Article XXXVII, Severance, as well as two weeks in lieu of notice pay. Employees will remain on group insurance plans through the end of November. If an employee chooses to enroll in continuation coverage, ANG Newspapers will pay up to three months of the required COBRA premium. Employees will continue to be responsible for any premium contributions they currently pay. Additionally, each employee will have access to services provided by our Employee Assistance Program.

    I am available to discuss these pending actions with you. We regret these actions, but are confident that they are necessary in order to move forward and continue to grow the business.


    Karen J. Austin Human Resources Director

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