One of the most frustrating aspects of our negotiations over the last five months has been the issue of company cars. We’ve heard through the rumor mill for months that cars were going to be eliminated but there have been few, if any, official pronouncements about cars.
To some, this may seem like a small issue. There are Guild members who drive very infrequently as part of their work. The problem is there are others who must drive many, many miles each week as part of their work duties, especially photographers, sports reporters and those who work in bureaus or cover outlying counties.
The company has acted like the elimination of cars is no big deal. But to these folks it is. In effect, it will reduce their compensation as they will now spend more on gasoline and auto maintenance.
The rumors have changed from day to day. We’ve heard all the cars are going and very soon. We’ve heard that nothing will change for months. We’ve heard that some cars will be kept, possibly for photographers, sports and emergencies.
In prior bargaining sessions, the company’s representatives have admitted that part of the confusion lies with the fact that managers have had a tough time making up their minds what to do.
But on Friday morning when we brought this up, they had some reassurances.
From our notes on the session, here’s what one negotiator for the company told us was they didn’t have a lot of information but they promised us nothing was going to happen without proper notification. Nothing had been decided, they said, and nothing was going to be announced.
That was Friday morning.
On Friday afternoon, we heard from sports reporters that they were told they could not use staff cars after May 7 — all travel after that point would be done using personal vehicles. The word came from Sports Editor Brian Kollars and questions were referred to Ron Rollins.
So on Friday afternoon, we asked Rollins what was going on. Here’s what he said:
–The plan is that after May 7, company cars will be out of circulation. They will remain at Ludlow where they are fenced in and watched by security cameras.
–All non-photographers from that point on will have to use their own cars for work assignments.
–Photographers will be told next week individually that they have
60 to 90 days left to use company cars. They will be offered the chance to purchase the company cars they have now.
–He did not mention any plan to keep emergency cars. He repeatedly said the paper is getting out of the car business entirely.
So much for the promised notice and guarantees that nothing was about to happen.
Inconsistencies in what the company tells us is a continuing frustration for the Guild. But we are vigilant about repeatedly asking these sorts of questions until we can nail down what is really going on.
Our latest proposal to the company offers some ideas about how high mileage workers might be compensated for their additional financial burden after cars are gone. We will see how they respond at our next bargaining session on May 8.