WBAI Paid Staff Offered Buyout

It has been reported that the Pacifica Foundation's debt from years of profligate spending by the former Pacifica National Board members and former Executive Directors currently stands at $4.8 million, with a projected increase in that deficit of $1 million for Fiscal Year 2002.

Sources in a position to know have said that Pacifica Management is seriously considering entering voluntary bankruptcy by around April 2002.

While Utrice Leid was Interim General Manager of WBAI she hired a large number of people into Paid Staff positions, both ones that people had been fired from and ones she created herself. These hires were made without regard to either the hiring practices outlined in the WBAI Union Contract, or the costs involved in hiring so many people at a time when Pacifica Management was looting the treasury and WBAI was not doing well in fund raising.

The newly installed Interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation, Dan Coughlin, has written in a memo dated February 8, 2002, that, “As a consequence of the serious financial crisis it is necessary to reduce the size of the WBAI Staff. In order to be fair to all our employees we intend to offer you the opportunity to take a voluntary severance package. If you choose voluntary severance Pacifica will pay you for a certain amount of time during which you may seek other employment. We are offering this package because if you decide that leaving employment at WBAI is a good option for you we want to make it easier for you to move forward and find a new position. WBAI Management and the AFTRA Union representatives will provide you with the exact details of the package as well as a general release. Please take the time to read these documents thoroughly and consult with an attorney if you wish. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about these issues, if you do I will do my best to respond to them quickly. I can be reached at Washington, D.C. ....”

The following is the gist of a “Memorandum to WBAI Unit” from AFTRA Reps. Richard Larkin and Laura Sigal, dated February 7, 2002. Of note is the short time, one week, Paid Staff have to decide if they'll take the buyout. Reportedly WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler wanted to give all Paid Staff only one day to decide. The provision about WBAI Management not challenging Staff unemployment claims also relates to a tactic used more than once by Van Isler.

Below are the terms of the agreement we reached with management regarding voluntary layoffs.

1. Due to the financial situation at WBAI and the Pacifica Foundation AFTRA and the company have agreed to voluntary layoffs.

2. Acceptance of the layoffs shall be voluntary, employees shall have until February 14, 2002, to elect whether or not to opt for the voluntary layoff.

3. Employees opting for the package shall receive a) severance pay equal to six weeks' pay, or for people who have been employed at the station for more than six years, b) one weeks' salary for each year of service, or proportional part thereof, three months health insurance for any employee eligible for health insurance as of February 6, 2002, c) payments for all vacation days accrued in the 18 months prior to February 6, 2002, d) payment for all authorized expenses incurred upon submission of proper receipts.

4. Length of service shall be determined according to the UE Contract. Breaks in service of less than five years do not disrupt seniority. However, these years in which employees did not work are not counted in calculation of severance pay. All years of employment whether full or part time shall be included in the calculation.

5. A weeks pay for a part timer shall be his/her average weekly pay over the lesser of one year or the length of the actual employment.

6. Neither the station nor Pacifica shall contest unemployment claims filed by employees accepting the voluntary layoffs.

7. Paid employees at WBAI covered by this agreement shall not be replaced with unpaid volunteers.

8. For one year from the date of the employees' voluntary layoff he/she shall receive notice of any paid position at WBAI within his/her former department and shall have the opportunity to apply and be considered for the position.

9. The station is free to offer greater benefits to any employee. However it must do so in writing with a copy to AFTRA.

10. Employees accepting the voluntary layoff shall sign a general release in a form agreed to by AFTRA and the company, said general release shall not contain a non-disparagement clause and shall be interpreted according to the laws of the State of New York.

11. Any disputes arising out of this agreement, the general release and/or individual severance agreement shall be determined by Janet McEneaney whose written decision shall have the same force and effect as an arbitration award.

12. Amounts due under this agreement shall be paid out in biweekly increments of not less than the biweekly salary the employee received during the time of layoff.

13. The agreement is entered on a non-precedential, non-citable basis and may not be offered in any subsequent legal or administrative proceeding or negotiation except as necessary to enforce its terms.

As the terms make clear it is up to your to decide whether or not you wish to accept the voluntary layoff. Once you accept the layoff your employment with WBAI will cease as will any right you may have to sue the station for anything that has happened in the past. The decision as to whether you accept the voluntary layoff should be based on your personal circumstances. If you have any questions you may contact Laura Sigal ....

Update: We have been reliably informed that seven WBAI Staff people have accepted the buyout offer. We are also informed that in the week following the buyout deadline three more people were laid off.

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