'Pioneer Press' Guild Claims Buyout Information Coming Too Slowly

By: Joe Strupp Three days after the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press announced a buyout offer seeking some 30 takers companywide, and gave staffers just a week to consider it, union leaders claim some potential takers have yet to receive specifics on what they would get.

Alex Friedrich, Pioneer Press unit chair for the Minnesota Newspaper Guild, estimates about a dozen or so staffers have requested financial data related to their situation, including eight in the newsroom. Editors had said up to 15 newsroom employees could be given buyouts.

But Friedrich says more than half of the newsroom inquiries remain unanswered since seeking information days ago, while a notice on the Guild Web site today states "that there has not been a consistent explanation of what you should expect if you apply for and decide to accept a buyout."

"The number of people who do not have information is disturbing," said Friedrich. "At least four [newsrooms staffers] have not received it and they had asked the first day."

A Pioneer Press spokeswoman declined to reveal how many requests for buyout information had come in, stating it "is considered confidential personnel information." When asked about complaints of delayed data information, she said, "Requests are being handled promptly by the Pioneer Press' Human Resources division, most within 24 hours."

Friedrich disagreed, claiming that the company is not even giving pension information to potential buyout takers, saying it will take too long to calculate. "They say the turnaround time is not enough," he said. "What is so urgent? It is not like we are in the red here."

The buyout offer, the second in less than eight months, was announced Tuesday, offering two weeks' pay for each year of service up to one year of salary. The previous buyout offer resulted in 29 employees leaving, including 22 in the newsroom.

For this buyout, the paper set a strict deadline, requiring takers to decide within a week, by a July 24 deadline.

"That week had already been cut to four days if you can't get your information by now," Friedrich said. "If they are going to do it, they should get it together and get it out. You just don't treat people like this."

Publisher Guy Gilmore did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while human resources officials declined.


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