‘Blade’ Of Toledo Cuts 20 Guild Workers

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By: Joe Strupp

Claiming continued losses from the first quarter of 2007, The Blade of Toledo, Ohio is planning to layoff some 20 Newspaper Guild employees across several departments, according to Assistant Managing Editor Luann Sharp.

“We notified the Guild on Monday officially that we would, for economic reasons, need to layoff members of the Guild,” Sharp told E&P Tuesday. “We are looking for a reduction of 20 full-time equivalents, which could be 25 to 30 positions with part-time workers.”

The layoffs, which will likely affect newsroom, advertising, circulation, finance and information technology employees, will occur as some 200 non-Guild union members remain locked out for the past eight months. Those workers, who are members of five of the paper’s eight unions, were locked out in late August.

The Guild, which represents about 300 of the paper’s 500 employees, has been without a contract for more than a year. Guild members, who are expected to resume negotiations that broke off in November later this month, voted in the fall to increase their medical benefits contribution at the request of management.

Sharp said the layoffs will be the first such forced cuts since 2003 when about 40 jobs were targeted across several unions. She said no specific numbers for each department have been revealed, saying such details will be discussed at a Friday Guild meeting first. “The layoffs are determined by the least-senior person in each job classification,” she said. “It will probably be pretty evenly spread between the news department and other departments in the building.”

Guild officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sharp said the layoffs were needed as the paper faces ongoing losses that have already forced it to close a Washington, D.C. bureau last year and seek other givebacks from the unions. “We are still in the red,” she said. “Our first quarter finances are not good. We have tried to put this off as long as we can.”

Blade management has said in the past that it needs a variety of concessions, including workplace rule changes and salary cuts, in order to stem growing losses it claims are mounting.

The paper has hired temporary workers to replace the locked-out employees. A hearing before a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge is set for May 21 to review a charge by the locked-out unions that the job action is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

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