WSG-UPI Reach Deal on June 2003 Layoffs

Here's a May 2003 memo from the Wire Service Guild on an agreement between the WSG and UPI on a layoff package:

May 22, 2003

Guild and UPI negotiators late today reached a tentative agreement on a severance pay package for 13 employees slated to be laid off June 13. Here are the key elements:

SEVERANCE. Employees would get one week of pay for every year of service, or fraction thereof, up to a maximum of 19 weeks. The money would be paid on a bi-weekly basis. The old Guild contract with UPI, which management contended is no longer applicable, calls for one week of pay for each full year of service, up to a maximum of 15 weeks. The improvement will give long-term employees an additional four weeks and will give another week to other employees by virtue of counting a portion of a year as a full year of service.

HEALTH INSURANCE. The package includes six months of health insurance at the single rate, or the cash equivalent, at the employee's option. The Company would either pay the full cost of a single premium directly or, if the employee chooses, would issue a check for six months of insurance costs. The approximate value of a monthly single premium is $561. Insurance became a major issue in these negotiations. At one point, UPI said it could not afford any insurance payments. The Guild had pushed for 18 months at whatever type of plan an employee had.

TIME OFF. All earned and accrued vacation, holidays and other time owed employees, excluding sick and personal time, would be paid on or before June 13.

OUTPLACEMENT. The Company agreed to pay up to $900 per employee for six weeks' of services from Morris & Associates, a company designed to help employees find new employment.

FINDING NEW WORK. The agreement would allow employees to use Company equipment and services in their job search prior to the layoff.

LEAVING EARLY. An employee designated for layoff may leave prior to June 13 in connection with starting a new job and still be eligible for the severance package.

RELEASE AND WAIVER. In order to receive the severance and health insurance payments, employees would have to sign a document waiving their rights to take legal action against UPI. They would have 45 days to review the document and, once signed, another seven days in which they could revoke the waiver. The Company said it plans to give employees the document as soon as the Guild severance agreement is ratified, perhaps as early as late next week.

The Guild has scheduled a meeting of all bargaining unit employees -- those leaving and staying -- for Thursday, May 29 at 3 p.m. A vote on this proposed agreement will be taken at that time. UPI has agreed to release employees from work in order to attend the meeting, which will be held in one of the Eighth Floor conference rooms. Arrangements are being made for UPI staffers outside of Washington to have a phone hook-up into the meeting. Specific conference call instructions will be available next week. The agreement must also be ratified by the Executive Board of the News Media Guild.


The parties, News Media Guild Local 31222, TNG-CWA, AFL-CIO, hereinafter "the Guild," and United Press International, Inc., hereinafter "UPI" or "the Company," having engaged in good faith bargaining on the effects of the reduction in staff announced by UPI on May 14, 2003, hereby agree as follows:

1. Major consideration to length of service will be given by the Company in making this reduction in staff.

2. Employees being laid off may use Company equipment and services for job search purposes prior to the effective date of the layoff.

3. UPI will provide discharged employees with the use of an Outplacement Service currently provided by Morris & Associates to assist them in finding alternative employment. The Company shall pay up to Nine Hundred ($900) to provide such service to each employee, provided however, that cash shall not be provided in lieu of not receiving use of the Outplacement Services.

4. Such discharged employees shall also be paid for all earned and accrued vacation, holidays, and for any other time owed by the Company.

5. Discharged employees who sign a Settlement Agreement and Release of Claims, a copy of which is attached hereto, shall be given, in addition to the benefits listed above, the following: (a) severance pay to be paid in bi-weekly payments equal to one (1) week of pay for each year of continuous service or fraction thereof up to a maximum of 19 weeks; and, (b) six (6) months of medical insurance payments based on the COBRA premium for a single plan, or, at the employee's option, the cash equivalent.

6. Employees designated for discharge may, on their own motion, leave UPI prior to the effective date of their discharge in order to obtain new employment. Such employees shall continue to be covered by the specific provisions set forth in Paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 of this Memorandum of Agreement.

7. Discharges in connection with this reduction in staff shall be effective at the end of the employee's shift on June 13, 2003. On or before that date, the Company shall pay each affected employee all money owed by virtue of Paragraph 4 above and, in the event the Release of Claims Agreement described in Paragraph 5 above has not been executed by June 13, one (1) week of severance pay that shall subsequently be deducted from any amount due the employee following execution of the Release of Claims Agreement.