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Union representing Star employees settles suit

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The union at The Indianapolis Star has settled a lawsuit it brought against the newspaper and subsidiaries of parent Gannett Co. Inc. challenging the layoffs of eight employees in July 2009.

Details of the confidential agreement filed with the court on Friday were not made public. The union said in a letter to Star employees that the eight will receive a financial settlement but will not be rehired.

The settlement also provides a guarantee that the company will honor the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, even after the contract expires on Sept. 1, 2011, Indy News Guild President Tom Spalding said in the letter.

“That’s the contract that provides guaranteed severance, no outsourcing and so forth,” he said. “That’s a big deal with the threat of the Gannett [consolidation and layoffs] looming in the future.”

The guild filed the lawsuit Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court against Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. and Pacific and Southern Co. Inc., subsidiaries of Virginia-based Gannett.

At issue was whether some rules of the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2008, remained in effect until the new contract was ratified in August 2009.

In the midst of contract negotiations, the Star laid off 14 people. The guild filed a grievance, saying the newspaper violated seniority rules in the cases of eight of the laid-off employees.

The Star rejected the grievance and later refused to go to arbitration, saying the arbitration provision of the old contract was not “evergreen.”

The complaint pointed out that the newspaper had continued to follow other provisions of the expired contract, including deducting union dues from members’ paychecks.
 

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