AP Story on 1991 Layoffs

Here's a Sept. 17, 1991, story by The Associated Press on UPI layoffs:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- United Press International began laying off more employees Tuesday, saying it needs to cut its expenses quickly if it is to stay in business.

UPI spokesman Milt Capps would not say how many employees were receiving immediate layoff notices. But he said it was a "substantial portion" of the approximately 150 workers -- including about 15 management people -- the company plans to lay off in the next month or two.

The 84-year-old wire service on Monday asked a federal judge to reverse himself and let UPI seek to cancel labor contract provisions guaranteeing U.S. employees severance pay, advance notice of layoffs and other benefits.

"We would exhaust every avenue to achieve the savings, because we need them to continue operating," Capps said. "We need to achieve the savings from this as soon as possible."

On Aug. 28, UPI sought bankruptcy protection for the second time in six years.

Wire Service Guild President Kevin Keane said the union expected UPI to provide it with a list of the employees being terminated.

Keane said "UPI is firing a large number of its employees. ... We are fighting to protect our members' rights in the bankruptcy court, federal court and wherever necessary."

Ron Kuntz, a UPI photographer in Cleveland for 38 1/2 years, received his notice on his 57th birthday.

"I never got anything from UPI on my birthday but I got something today," said Kuntz, who was busy arranging UPI's darkroom needs for a proposed new baseball stadium in Cleveland.

Capps said Tuesday's round of layoffs involved employees around the country, including those working in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and smaller bureaus. The company plans to replace them with stringers and independent contractors, he said.

The union-covered employees receiving layoff notices Tuesday were being given two weeks' notice, Capps said. But he said they might not receive severance pay, depending on whether the courts allow the elimination of the contract provisions.

Management employees being laid off are receiving no advance notice and no severance pay, he said.

UPI employs about 585 people in the United States and abroad, down from a reported 1,600 before its purchase by Infotechnology in 1988. Infotechnology also has sought bankruptcy protection in New York.

In UPI's bankruptcy petition, it said it had liabilities of $65.2 million and assets of $22.7 million.

UPI employees agreed last November to the first of several pay and benefits cuts. Workers now are receiving about 80 percent of contract pay levels, or about $568 a week for top-level employees.

The layoffs begun Tuesday included about 20 photo staffers, Capps said, adding that the photo operation essentially was being cut back to full-time editors who would handle pictures taken by stringers.

Capps said "there will be some moving around" of full-time reporters, with staffers required to work more of their time at desks in some areas.

He said UPI will keep full-time reporters on key beats in Washington, such as the White House and Congress, but he said some other beats may be covered by stringers.

Capps said UPI continues to receive contacts from potential buyers, but "right now UPI must go it alone and must take whatever means, however wrenching" to stabilize itself financially.

UPI filed its new bankruptcy action in a New York court. But creditors in the 1985 bankruptcy action, which was handled in Washington, asked that the new case be transferred to the nation's capital.

That request halted all other proceedings in the case, thus preventing UPI from seeking court permission to cancel contract provisions over the objections of the Wire Service Guild, a local of The Newspaper Guild.

UPI wants to eliminate guarantees of advance notice of layoff, two weeks of severance pay, employee permission required for transfers, limits on the use of stringers and the right of senior employees to bump more junior workers from their jobs.

On Friday, UPI asked U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan to let the company ask a New York judge to permit modification of the employees' contract. Hogan denied the emergency request but allowed all sides to submit written arguments this week.

In court papers filed Monday, UPI said its losses attributed to the contract were accumulating at the rate of $555,000 a month, and its proposals would save about $478,000 a month.