Indy Star guild claims layoffs violated contract

Layoffs announced last week by The Indianapolis Star violated a contract with the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, the guild alleged in a grievance filed yesterday

Five of the seven newsroom staff who were laid off lost their jobs without consideration of their seniority, the guild claimed. The other two were managers, thus were not covered by the contract.

Guild officials believe Editor Dennis Ryerson moved to protect reporters and photographers, none of which lost their jobs.

“On one hand I respect what Dennis did, but the contract doesn’t say he can do that,” said guild President Abe Aamidor, a Star reporter.

Ryerson declined to comment.

The seven who lost their jobs were among 23 laid off Aug. 19 as part of Star parent Gannett Co. Inc.’s struggle to boost profits and its sagging stock price. The shares are trading at $17.25, the lowest since late 1991. Gannett and other media companies are trying to maintain circulation and advertising for print products at a time of rising competition from the Internet.

Layoffs based on economic conditions must take seniority into account, the guild contended. Aamidor said the Star declined to offer voluntary buyouts.

Star managers must respond to the grievance within one month. If guild officials aren’t pleased with management’s response, they can demand binding arbitration.

The confrontation could create tension as the sides sit down later this year to hammer out a new contract. The existing contract expires Dec. 31.

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