The News Media Guild is reviewing the layoffs of 14 staffers to make sure The Associated Press followed the contract when releasing the workers with no notice.
The AP laid off the 14 solo correspondents, photographers and bureau workers on Dec. 9, bringing the total number of Guild-covered staffers losing their jobs with the company during the holiday season to 35. AP offered buyouts in the 21 other job losses and just one person was laid off.
“In the cases where people were laid off in bureaus of more than one person or one person in their job classification, the Guild is asking the AP why buyouts weren’t offered, as the contract requires,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “The union can’t typically prevent layoffs, but we will make sure the contract is followed and that the laid-off staffers get all the severance and other pay owed to them.”
Employees in one person bureaus should be offered vacancies elsewhere that they are able to perform, if available, she added.
The layoffs were abrupt for some because the AP chose to give four weeks of notice pay rather than let people work for four more weeks. Staffers were told they were losing their jobs and were out the door quickly, causing managers to rearrange news coverage.
In the case of one layoff, managers scrambled to find someone to travel to and cover a major trial because the reporter who had covered the trial was among those who lost their jobs.
One Guild member who lost his job said the layoffs show the value of the union.
“The company’s not paying severance to me and the others who were laid off out of some sense of compassion,” the staffer wrote. “It’s paying because the contract that we all worked for, that we support with our dues every paycheck, requires them to pay.
“The union can’t typically prevent layoffs, but we will make sure the contract is followed and that the laid-off staffers get all the severance and other pay owed to them.”
– Martha Waggoner, Guild President
“Anybody who’s working at AP should realize that their job’s not safe. When their manager calls them in with no warning after years of hard work to tell them that it’s their turn to walk the plank, they’re going to need a strong contract.”
In at least one case, an AP newspaper member bemoaned the layoffs. A column in the New Hampshire Union Leader about photographer Jim Cole had the heading “End of an Era.”
The column described Cole as “an iconic photojournalist” and listed several of his most famous photos, including one of former French President Nicola Sarkozy, when he was boating on Lake Winnipesaukee in the summer of 2007. The shirtless Sarkozy is pointing at Cole and yelling.