The Star-Advertiser certainly gave itself a glowing report card yesterday as it marked the first anniversary of the merger between Honolulu’s two rival daily newspapers.
Publisher Dennis Francis said the newspaper has been profitable since the beginning, they’re investing in upgrading technology and giving staff “all of the tools that they need to do their jobs well,” and even shared “$1 million or so” with the community. The result, Francis said, is that 82% of its readers are “satisfied” with the product.
Wow. I have to wonder whether we’re talking about the same newspaper.
Compare the rosy financial projection with the company’s stance in ongoing union negotiations, where the company seems to be trying to cut back, take back and, overall, talk “poor mouth.”
According to a “bargaining bulletin” dated May 27, 2011 from the new Pacific Media Workers Guild, created by the merger of several Hawaii and Northern California newspaper guild locals, the company is seeking:
• A 30% cut in paid holidays.
• Elimination of overtime for more than eight hours of work in a day. Overtime would only kick in after 40 hours per week.
• Reduction in number of vacation days, with a maximum of four weeks for workers with more than 15 years experience.
• A 50% cut in annual sick leave.
• Elimination of seniority as a factor in layoffs or recalls in all but a few cases, leaving management to consider “all relevant factors” in deciding who gets the axe.
• Larger share of medical premiums to be paid by employees with two-person or family plans.
The company is also offering raises of 1%, 1.5%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 2%, a total of 7.5% over the five years of the proposed contract. That’s actually an increase from an earlier company offer.
Meanwhile, the Guild is asking for “adequate training” at company expense for anyone assigned to jobs requiring multi-media skills, including audio and video recording, and social media use, apparently reflecting that such training is not currently provided. The guild is also asking that no-one not originally hired to perform this kind of work be disciplined for “performance issues” related to the technology.
The company has rejected the Guild’s call for a two-year “no layoffs” deal, and four weeks advance notice, along with economic justification, before any layoffs.
At minimum, the Star-Advertiser’s negotiating stance seems quite at odds with the picture Francis attempted to paint of a profitable company looking at growth and prosperity in the year ahead, unless he’s figuring that the prosperity is going to come at the expense of their own employees.
Negotiations continue later this month.
And here’s another amazing little Star-Advertiser vignette, told to me by an old friend. He called the paper to talk to a reporter he knows, and his call was routed to the city desk. Then, according to my friend, he was rudely “grilled” by a woman he believes was a city editor, who demanded to know who he was, why he was calling, and why he wanted to talk to the reporter. Now, my friend was a well-positioned and knowledgeable source back when I was writing for the Star-Bulletin, and I’m sure he continues to be a good source today. He was stunned by the experience. Why in the world would city editors be aggressively inserting themselves into contacts between the public and reporters? Have they not heard of cultivating sources?