Fear, loathing, and the Chronicle's voluntary termination incentive program

Meanwhile, amid the fractious unfolding of the buyout program, the full implications of the Guild's contract -- described by the union at the time of its ratification as "terrible" -- seem to be dawning on the staff. "I knew [Vega] was going to be business first," the reporter above says, "but a lot of the cuts are so petty." For instance, she says, the paper no longer reimburses for computer glasses. "Ridiculous. Petty, petty, petty. The bottom line isn't helped by these penny ante chops and changes."

Moreover, the contract has "turned people against each other," she says. Under the terms of the accord, 43 Guild members, mostly assignment editors, were bumped into management roles, though not with the sort of benefits such a promotion might entail. In the Chronicle's "staff basket" -- an independent Yahoo! newsgroup for the paper's Guild members -- people have hotly debated whether the 43 employees exempted from the union contract should now have access to the basket. "It did sting a little bit," says one of the editors. "The contract showed that things are contentious in the world of Guild versus management. Officially, I'm management, so I'm not surprised that that's transferred to me. Does it hurt personally? Yes, of course." (It's a paranoid time, too, for the newly exempt editors, who now, without the protections of a labor agreement, can be fired at will. "Remember, I'm now exempt," the editor above says, cautioning Dog Bites about e-mailing. "It's a brave new world.")

Says the Chroniclereporter who's considering looking elsewhere for work: "I've found the whole thing very disillusioning. ... With this contract, seeing how people are being disrespected, it's a job, suddenly, where it used to be your life. People's hearts are not in it. I don't know how they can expect productivity if they've cut out people's hearts." (Tommy Craggs)

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