Fresno Bee members face furloughs; Guild urges them to say “no” to free overtime

Fresno Bee Unit

Guild representatives met Monday with the company for reopeners – a mini bargaining session where salary and a limited number of other issues are on the table.

First, the good news. We saved you some money. After we raised the issue at the bargaining table, the company assured us that plans will be made to give employees who use the Fresno Bee website for work purposes outside the office a password to access the site. This way, they won’t have to pay to do their jobs when working remotely under the new paywall system, something the guild has been pushing for.

Management also wanted the right to do a second furlough in 2013. It already has the right to do one. We were told Tuesday that the first furlough is “likely” and you’ll probably be hearing more on that soon.

As for the second furlough, the company threatened to take away raises this year if we do not approve the ability to do a second furlough. The company’s representatives (McClatchy attorney Bob Ford and HR head Donald Grady) said they weren’t sure yet if they would need to do a second furlough and “may or may not” depending on the financial outlook toward the end of the year. But they want the ability to do a second furlough if it’s needed.

If we say no to a second furlough, the company would find others ways to cut costs, usually layoffs. Financially, since the merit pool is 2% (and the average raise is around 2%), most employees break even with a raise and one furlough and effectively take a 2% pay cut with a second furlough.

If we refuse the company’s offer, we are guaranteed a 2% pay cut and additional layoffs that will likely result in a heavier workload for all of us.

Since members have expressed a preference for furloughs over losing even more staff, we will put the matter to a vote next week, possibly Thursday. Only dues-paying members can vote (and as always, there is strength in numbers at the bargaining table and we welcome new members).

In the meantime, let’s make sure we’re getting the raises that are due to us. If your review is overdue, please let me know. If you’re not sure when your review date is, check with your supervisor. We want you to get the money that you have coming to you.

Also, the company is doing a lot of taking lately. Let’s not give them anything we don’t have to. Please do NOT work unpaid overtime. That only masks the staffing shortage and makes the company less likely to hire the additional staff we so desperately need. Remember that you have comp time as an option. And if work is keeping you late, feel free to alert your supervisor that your 7.5 hour work day is done and ask if they would rather have you go home or approve overtime (and keep in mind you only get paid overtime after 8 hours, that first extra half hour is straight time). We all want to produce the best possible product, but burning yourself out while not getting paid for it and delaying the steps the company needs to take to make us a better paper don’t help that cause.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer