Friday, November 3, 2006

Oakland Tribune to Abandon Downtown

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 3, 2006 at 3:23 PM

The Oakland Tribune plans to vacate the storied Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland in the coming months, three knowledgeable sources said today. The move is part of a sweeping consolidation plan brought about by the MediaNews -- the Trib's parent company - purchase of the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News. MediaNews plans to move all business and most advertising staff from its East Bay and South Bay papers to a building it will lease at Bishop Ranch Business Park in San Ramon. According to one well-placed source, Tribune editorial staff, including all reporters, photographers, and editors may be moved to an office building along Interstate 880 across from the Oakland Coliseum.

MediaNews is calling its new San Ramon facility "The California Newspaper Partnership Shared Services Center." The massive consolidation of business and advertising staff to the center likely will result in the loss hundreds of jobs in total at MediaNews' Bay Area newspapers. MediaNews plans to slash up to 116 business and advertising jobs from the Mercury News in March 2007, according to a memo from the San Jose Newspaper Guild, which represents reporters, editors, photographers, and advertising workers at the Merc. It's unclear how many more jobs will also be lost from the Contra Costa Times, the Tribune, and its sisters at ANG Newspapers -- the Hayward Daily Review, the Fremont Argus, the Tri-Valley Herald, and the San Mateo County Times.

The consolidation and resulting job loss was immediately decried by the union as being shortsighted. Advertising staff in particular should not be moved out of Silicon Valley, said Luther Jackson, executive director of the San Jose Newspaper Guild. "Every newspaper should have its own classified ad staff," he said. "Classified ad sales are built on personal relationships with clients. It's about knowing your community."

Kevin Keane, head of all editorial functions at ANG Newspapers, including the Trib and the Contra Costa Times, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The revelation about the Trib's move and the San Ramon Center comes on the heels of a Wednesday report on this blog that John Armstrong, publisher of ANG Newspapers and the Contra Costa Times, had warned reporters, editors, and photographers to expect layoffs "in the weeks ahead." Armstrong blamed declining ad sales and "changes in the way we will conduct our business."

In light of today's revelations, it appears clear that those "changes," involve cutting and consolidating staff at most or all of the papers as part of the move to San Ramon. A few weeks ago, MediaNews also revealed that it plans to lay off 101 people at the Merc, including 69 union employees, of which 40 would be from the newsroom. Those 101 employees would be joined in the unemployment line by the 116 people the company may lay off in March as part of the move to services center. In other words, at least 227 Merc employees may be laid off in the coming months

However, MediaNews officials told the San Jose Guild this week that it plans to forgo some of the layoffs if the union will agree to its contract demands by November 30 (the layoffs are scheduled to occur on December 4). The company said at least 27 jobs would be saved in the first round of layoffs, plus another 71 in March.

The planned job cuts also come in stark contrast to the announcements MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton made earlier this year when he purchased the Merc and the Contra Costa Times. Singleton said at the time that he had "no immediate plans" for layoffs. Here is the East Bay Express' package of stories about the MediaNews purchase.

The Trib's departure from the Tribune Tower will mark the second time the newspaper has left the 20-story landmark in the past seventeen years. The newspaper originally vacated the building after it was severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The newspaper moved to an office building it rented from the Port of Oakland in Jack London Square where it remained throughout the 1990s. But then moved back into the tower in early 2000 after it was remodeled and retrofitted by its then-owner, developer and Port of Oakland commissioner John Protopappas.

The full memo from the San Jose Newspaper Guild follows:

    San Jose Newspaper Guild Bargaining Bulletin #9 Nov. 1, 2006

    For the first time, the company today proposed direct links between layoffs and contract concessions. At the same time, the company introduced the entirely new subject of outsourcing jobs to the CNP San Ramon "shared services center," which was announced simultaneously by George Riggs to the staff.

    The company said that if the Guild accepted all contract concessions by Nov. 30 on health insurance premiums, elimination of the pension plan, loss of accrued vacation, a six-month pay freeze (beginning July 1, 2006), and elimination of most contract language that now reserves Guild work for Guild members, it would reduce the number of previously announced layoffs from 69 Guild members to 42. The company said it could make no assurances that the 27 jobs that would be saved -- or any others -- would be protected from future layoff.

    If all concessions were made, the company would still layoff 10 Employees in advertising, three in finance, one IT/PBX, 23 in editorial, two in circulation, two in creative services, and one in production. Layoffs would be announced Dec. 5, effective Dec. 19.

    The company said if the Guild agreed to the proposed concessions, the company would achieve annual saving of $828,000 on health care, $360,000 on retirement, $270,000 by freezing wages for six months, and $4.8 million through adoption of "management rights." Those management rights would eliminate the rights of Guild members to do to the work they currently do (also known as jurisdiction). The company said it was not ready to explain how elimination of jurisdiction protections would yield $4.8 million in annual savings. The vacation accrual change would amount to a $2.1 million one-time savings for the company.

    On the "shared services center," the company said it intended to eliminate 116 Guild positions in March, broken down as nine from advertising majors; 19 from national; 14 from marketing; two from targeted delivery; 25 from recruitment; two from advertising co-op; 15 from the advertising call center and 30 from finance.

    It is important to note that under the jurisdiction language of the current contract, the company cannot outsource this work to non-Guild members.

    The company acknowledged that it needed to address these jurisdiction issues through collective bargaining. The company said that if the Guild agreed to its contract proposals, 71 of the 116 jobs would not be eliminated and would remain in San Jose under Guild jurisdiction. In any case, the company said 15 call center and 30 finance jobs would be eliminated and those functions would be shifted to San Ramon.

    In total -- combining those jobs planned for elimination through the layoffs announced Oct. 20 and the outsourcing announced Tuesday -- the company said it planned to eliminate 185 San Jose Newspaper Guild jobs. Of those, if all company contract proposals were accepted, 98 would be preserved in San Jose, though for no fixed period of time.

    The next bargaining session is scheduled for Nov 9. Also, on Nov. 9, the Guild will hold membership meetings at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.

    Representing the company were Marshall Anstandig, Andy Huntington and Kathleen Slattery. Representing the Guild were Suzanne Arnaud, Mary Anne Ostrom, Becky Bartindale, Luther Jackson, Barry Witt, Nick Warner and Dennis Uyeno.

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

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