East Hawaii News

Union Representing Tribune-Herald Employees Files Labor Charge

May 9, 2016, 1:20 PM HST
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Hawai'i Tribune-Herald in Hilo. File photo by Dave Smith.

Hawai’i Tribune-Herald in Hilo. File photo by Dave Smith.

Issues over sick leave policies have Hawai’i Tribune-Herald employees fighting for “dignity and respect.”

The Pacific Media Workers Guild, the oversight union of Hawai’i Tribute-Herald employees, issued a press release on Monday morning noting that an unfair labor practice charge was filed last week.

The filing with the National Labor Relations Board challenges Oahu Publications Inc.’s practice of forcing employees to forfeit vacation days when they use sick leave and requiring doctor’s notes for each illness.

“Employees should be encouraged to take care of their health rather than be penalized,” said Tom Callis, Hilo unit chair. “These policies do not help create a healthy and productive workplace.”

Issues have been ongoing since the sale of the Tribune-Herald to OPI in Dec. 2014.

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In addition to vacation and sick leave issues, OPI laid off nearly half of the newspaper’s staff upon purchasing the newspaper. Employees were required to reapply for their jobs. According to OPI, the practice is “standard.”

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During the sale of the publication, employees at the Tribune-Herald had their collective bargaining agreement canceled, something that remains in negotiations with management.

OPI has also acquired West Hawai’i Today, a sister publication to the Hawai’i Tribune Herald that is not unionized, and the Garden Island newspaper on Kauai, which is also not unionized.

“The Guild’s position is the company can only enforce policies it provided to employees in writing the day of the purchase before a new contract is reached,” read information from the Guild’s release. “To implement these new sick leave rules without negotiating with employees or telling them is a clear violation of labor law.”

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According to the Guild, management also uses approved sick leave in “discipline” that is in combination with tardiness or being absent from work.

The policies are all new following the sale of the company and are not part of the Guild’s collective bargaining agreement covering the newsroom at the OPI-owned Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“The assumption by the company that its employees need to be managed in this fashion is both misguided and insulting,” said Brad Sherman, sports editor at The Maui News and a member of the Guild’s bargaining committee. “The stance that the newspaper’s employees are somehow deceitful is, frankly, absurd. These are the same employees whose hard work and dedication had created a business that was profitable — in an industry that is facing struggles — at the time OPI made the purchase.”

OPI has also proposed drug testing staff without cause, a proposal protested by the staff by displaying specimen cups with messages that read “My Urine, My Business.”

The Guild reports that it has offered provisions allowing drug testing with cause, a reasonable attendance policy, and allowing the employer to request a doctor’s note at the company’s expense. They’ve all been rejected by management.

Star-Advertiser employees are standing with the Big Island employees.

“We stand with our brothers and sisters on the Big Island,” said Sjarif Goldstein, Star-Advertiser assistant sports editor and Honolulu unit chair. “The Honolulu newsroom understands what’s at stake for media workers in Hawai’i as ownership consolidation continues.”

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