Reuters, union settle cases of eight fired journalists

by
Newspaper Guild

The Newspaper Guild of New York and Thomson Reuters management have settled the cases of eight journalists who were dismissed last year on the basis of PIPs and then unilaterally offered reinstatement after an arbitrator effectively voided the use of performance improvement plans as a disciplinary tool.

Under the settlement that was reached in late December but only announced on Tuesday, six of the eight journalists decided not to return to the company in exchange for enhanced severance. The other two were given until the end of January to decide whether to return to their old jobs with discipline-free records. On Friday, one of the two decided against returning.

In addition to the options of enhanced severance or getting their jobs back, all eight have been or will be made whole from the dates of their terminations to the end of 2012 for any loss of benefits and loss of pay, for those whose biweekly severance payments lapsed before year-end. In most cases, the make-whole payments amounted to restoration of the matching 401(k) contributions that the company would have made during the period.

With seven journalists having chosen not to return and management having expunged all of the discipline of the journalist who is still deciding, the Guild has withdrawn all 19 grievances that were scheduled for arbitration on behalf of the eight journalists. All had multiple arbitrations pending, one for each step of the disciplinary process (verbal warning, written, etc.) that led to their terminations.

The Guild also withdrew another four arbitrations challenging the PIP-related discipline of four other journalists who are still with the company, after management notified the employees and the Guild that it had expunged the related discipline of each.

Also withdrawn by the Guild was an unfair labor practice charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board after management contacted each of the eight terminated journalists in early December and unilaterally offered to reinstate them without first discussing the terms with the Guild.

Yet to be resolved, however, are grievances over verbal warnings issued to 15 journalists, who are still with the company. As a matter of policy, management never removes verbal warnings from the records of employees, although their practical use as stepping stones to more serious discipline diminishes greatly after a year or two. Even though they are not part of employees’ personnel files, they are can be invoked as a basis for more advanced discipline if a manager believes a triggering event has occurred.

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