Monday, June 22, 2009

Circulation station closure postponed

The impending closure of the Press-Telegram's sole remaining circulation station has been postponed until further notice, according to MediaNews Group SVP Jim Janiga.

The company notified the Guild on June 8 that due to a need for further operating expense cuts at the P-T, it planned to shutter the Signal Hill location by June 23 and perform the work out the Daily Breeze's circulation facility in Torrance. The nine Guild-represented workers at the P-T station were offered transfers to the Torrance facility, albeit at the loss of their Guild representation and coverage under the Guild-negotiated P-T contract. Transferees would have become "at-will" employees of the Daily Breeze and faced serious changes in their job status and compensation.

Janiga said Wednesday that the decision to postpone the closure came after the company learned that all nine of the P-T circulation workers declined to transfer to Torrance. This scenario would have left the P-T will no circulation staff following the closure of the Signal Hill facility.

"Current [P-T circulation] staff will not be released until some later date," said Janiga in a message to the Guild yesterday. "Hopefully, this delay will not be too great. As a result all employees currently working out of the Signal Hill office will remained employed and expected to continue working their assignments until otherwise notified."

The Signal Hill facility will remain open, according to Janiga, until sufficient staff can be found to perform the work out of Torrance.

Under the Guild-negotiated P-T contract ratified in January, the circulation staff--once let go by the company--will be entitled to 60-day pay in lieu of notice, enhanced severance, extended COBRA medical coverage and participation in the company's tuition reimbursement program.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On the move

Press-Telegram operations will be consolidated onto the 1st floor of the downtown Long Beach ARCO Tower Building by July 1 and the newspaper plans to vacate the building entirely by the end of 2009, according to P-T General Manager Joe Brenneman.

Brenneman told employees Thursday that the company has hired an agent to look for property and the hope is to keep the paper in Long Beach, preferably downtown.

In July 2006 the P-T's parent company, Denver-based MediaNews Group, sold the more than 100-year-old P-T building at 6th and Pine Avenue for roughly $20 million and signed a 15-year lease for four floors of the ARCO Tower Building. According to MediaNews Group's past financial reports, $16.7 million of the sale of the P-T building was funneled back to Denver as profit directed toward dividends to the privately-held company's small group of shareholders.

MediaNews financial documents reveal a likely reason for the end-of-the-year deadline to vacate the ARCO Tower Building space. Under the terms of the original lease for the space, the minimum annual cost of the lease jumps from $800,000 a year to $900,000 a year on Jan. 1, 2010.

Currently, the main P-T operations, including the newsroom, are operated out of the ARCO Tower Building's 14th floor, with smaller ancillary operations located on portions of the 4th and 1st floors. P-T management plans to consolidate all operations, including the newsroom, to the 1st floor, with 4th floor operations remaining in place. Brenneman acknowledged that the much smaller 1st floor space is untenable for all the paper's operations in the long run.

When questioned by newsroom employees on the possibility of remaining in their current 14th floor location until the planned full move out of the building, company officials replied that this was not an option.

The P-T subleased the 12th floor more than a year ago and plans to sublease the 14th floor once the consolidation to the lower floors is complete.

Update on PT circulation station closure

Additional details of MediaNews Group's plans to shutter the Long Beach Press-Telegram's sole remaining circulation facility were presented to Guild members yesterday.

The company, citing a need to further reduce operating expenses at the P-T, plans to close the Signal Hill facility by June 23 and move the work to the Torrance Daily Breeze. The MNG-owned Los Angeles Daily News circulation department, which is not represented by the Guild, is also being consolidated to the Breeze.

The nine Guild members at the Signal Hill facility, the last P-T circulation station of five shuttered and consolidated by MNG since 1998, are being offered transfers to the Torrance Daily Breeze. The company has said that there are nine slots available in Torrance for the nine Signal Hill workers. However, not all of the nine slots are in their same "District Advisor" position currently held by the Signal Hill workers.

Any Guild member accepting a transfer will lose their Guild representation and become an "at-will" Breeze employee.

In addition to traveling the extra miles to Torrance, transferees will no longer receive a per-mile reimbursement for work travel (a much smaller per-day lump reimbursement will be provided), will have to use their own vehicles to perform their work, and will be forced to accept future wage and benefit cuts if enacted by the company.

Five of the positions at the Breeze are also set to be salaried, meaning transferees accepting these positions will not be eligible for overtime, a common occurrence for circulation workers.

Guild members at the Signal Hill facility who are interested in transfer will able to meet with management at the Torrance facility and look at the operation before making their final decision about transferring.

The Guild and members at the Signal Parkway circulation station are set to meet with MediaNews' SVP Jim Janiga on Friday morning to discuss further details of the situation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Dark Clouds Continue

MediaNews Group, citing a need to further reduce operating expenses at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, will shutter the P-T's sole remaining circulation facility and move the work to the Torrance Daily Breeze, according to a company notification to the Guild.

The station, located in Signal Hill, now employs 10 P-T unit members. Each will have the option of taking a buyout or transferring to Torrance. Circulation department members have been led to understand that the positions in Torrance will be salaried with no Guild representation. The company is making the move to outsource the P-T circulation under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding in the current contract. Some aspects of P-T circulation are already being performed at the Daily Breeze and by the Los Angeles Times.

An exact date for the Signal Hill closure and move has yet to be announced by the company. A Guild meeting with SVP Jim Janiga is being scheduled for later this week.

The impending move of the Press-Telegram newsroom and offices out of the 14th floor of the Arco Towers will also see the shuttering of the local office of the Pasadena Federal Credit Union, formerly the Media News Credit Union.

The credit union, originally formed by the P-T decades ago, has been asked to vacate the first floor Acro Towers office space they have leased from the P-T since the paper moved to the downtown high-rise in 2007. P-T management has said that it will need the space to accommodate the paper's personnel as part of the move. The three PFCU Long Beach employees will be moved to the Pasadena office of the PFCU.

Credit union members will still be able to do their banking locally at several credit unions and banks the PFCU is partnered with. A list of partner sites in Long Beach is available from the PFCU at the P-T.

The credit union has been asked to vacate their first floor offices within the next several weeks.