The Hearst Corp., the parent company of the Times Union, canceled its contract with the Albany Newspaper Guild today, the union’s president announced.
Tim O’Brien informed a group of guild members of the canceled contract shortly before a scheduled rally for the union outside the newspaper’s offices. The union’s contract officially expired in August, but it had an agreement with the Hearst Corp. to continue it on a month-to-month basis.
Last month, Publisher George Hearst III sent a memo to the union signaling the company’s intention to cancel the contract as of April 9. At the time, Hearst acknowledged the move was “unprecedented” for the Times Union, but said the company deemed it necessary to move contract negotiations ahead.
O’Brien said the cancellation will prevent union members from taking grievances to an independent arbitrator and end an arrangement whereby the company deducts union dues from employee paychecks.
Union leaders fear the company could lay off as many as 70 workers in order to cut its costs by nearly 20 percent.
The publisher posted a statement on the Times Union's Web site announcing cancellation of the contract, which covered 240 of the newspaper's 450 employees
"We took this step only after making every effort to reach an agreement at the bargaining table. Central to both management and Guild bargaining representatives are the issues of seniority and the ability to outsource work -- areas in which we currently have no ability to consider the business needs of the Times Union or the talents of our employees," Hearst's statement said.
"Notwithstanding our need for flexibility, we are committed to keeping jobs in -- and even moving jobs to -- Albany under the right circumstances. We owe it to our employees and all of you to make the changes that are necessary to maintain the quality of the Times Union, now and in the future.
"As we have told the Guild bargaining representatives, the termination of the contract will not result in any change in most terms and conditions of employment for Guild bargaining unit members. The Guild leadership has exaggerated the implications of this move. There will be no change in employment levels as a result of the cancellation of this expired contract. The biggest changes include the losses of dues collection by the Times Union and grievance arbitration. We certainly do not view canceling the contract as a hostile act, and hope that our employees will recognize it for what it is -- another step toward eventual settlement on a good contract," Hearst said.