The labor management committee of the Vice Media union has called on the company to improve its “unreasonable” dismissal conditions for the 17 employees of Vice Digital and Refinery29 who were laid off at the end of August.
In a letter sent to senior executives, including Vice President Nancy Dubuc, this week, the committee demanded that the media company increase its severance pay from 6-8 weeks to 9-12 weeks for each former staff member, based on the length of their employment, and pay for unused paid time off for former employees – provisions that the union committee said were granted to U.S. employees in Vice’s previous round of layoffs in May 2020.
“VICE voluntarily complied with these conditions last year, at the height of the pandemic, as the advertising industry and VICE’s own revenues collapsed,” the letter reads. “It is unacceptable that the company does not meet these same conditions while the pandemic is still raging and federal unemployment benefits are no longer available – but VICE’s business has recovered and is doing better than ever, according to your own review in Nancy’s company-wide emails [Dubuc] and [Chief Digital Officer] Cory [Haik] respectively.”
The committee also took issue with the view that Vice would receive $ 135 million in new funding a week after the layoffs were announced, as well as the fact that 15 of the 17 former employees made redundant were women, including two on maternity leave. (Refinery29, which has been heavily affected by the layoffs, has a largely female workforce.)
Responding to the labor committee on Thursday, Haik countered that the termination terms were in accordance with the collective agreement and included additional provisions, such as COBRA subsidies covered by Vice and allowing employees on leave to remain on the payroll for their purposes. period of leave remaining.
“These are not things VMG was required to do, but rather in an effort to further assist the laid-off employees in their transition from the organization,” replied Haik. She also denied that the layoffs targeted protected class employees and said Vice worked with an independent lawyer to “ensure that no group of individuals are disproportionately affected.”
Last month, as Vice embarked on a shift in strategy emphasizing videos and visual storytelling, Haik told staff members in a memo announcing promotions and social media success metrics that the layoffs were part of a “global alignment” happening across Vice Media.
A former member of the Vice union who was hit by the August layoffs acknowledged that the job cuts were an “unfortunate reality” of the media industry, but called the latest wave “disheartening”.
“The majority of us have been there for the previous rounds so it’s really painful to see how the company handled this time around,” they said. “[Vice] regularly publishes excellent reports on unions and the labor movement, but when it comes to how the company and management have dealt with these layoffs, you are really starting to doubt that these core values actually extend from what is on the page… to the ethics of the company and how it actually treats its workers. “
Natalie Gontcharova, former editor-in-chief of Refinery29, said Hollywood journalist she had been on maternity leave for almost two months when she was told she was going to be fired.
“When the company contacted me, I was literally breastfeeding [my son]”Goncharova said.” It’s heartbreaking to hear your baby cry for your attention when you have to be on the phone or on your laptop due to a situation beyond your control and created by others. “
Now Goncharova has said she has to juggle being a new mother and starting the job search all over again and hopes Vice can improve her severance pay for those who are made redundant.
“What they offered me was not enough for me to focus on being a new mother rather than looking for a job,” she said. “It’s important for me to make the transition to work as a working mom, to be prepared and to have the resources I need. “
(Disclosure: The author was employed by Vice between 2019 and 2020.)
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