None of the 67 Guild-covered staffers who work in the technology unit will lose their jobs because of the Associated Press plan to outsource some work, the company told the union at the bargaining table Tuesday.
“It will not affect U.S. Guild staff,” said Jessica Bruce, vice president of human resources for the AP.
The company provided no details of the outsourcing plan, other than that it exists, during a conference call last week with the technology unit.
Also Tuesday, the company revised its proposal on the weekly mileage allowance for photographers, videographers and video journalists. Those staffers would receive a weekly non-wage stipend of $33 that would be taxable as required by law. They would not receive the stipend during weeks when on out-of-town assignments when they don’t use their personal car.
The company explained that the $33 makes up the difference between the $70.62 that staffers get when they’re paid the IRS minimum of 56.5 cents a mile for the mileage minimum of 125 miles each week and the current mileage allowance.
AP also wants to eliminate the $15 daily minimum that other staffers get, replacing it with the IRS rate for each business mile driven.
For details on the AP’s revised proposal, click here.
Several people inquired on the Guild’s listserv about the employee rewards program, under which staffers choose gifts after they’ve been with the company for a certain number of years, for example, at 10, 15, 20, 25 years. One staffer said he asked about his 10-year gift and learned the program is on hold.
Bruce confirmed that, saying AP is “looking at not spending money on that program anymore.” The Guild said it could be considered a past practice and that AP might be obligated to bargain over putting the program on hold or changing it. The company will look into it.
The company also said it may propose language that the AP will no longer reimburse staffers who lose personal equipment, such as cell phones or laptops, or when that equipment is damaged, since everyone has AP-issued equipment now. The Guild pointed that not everyone has AP-issued equipment, especially not breaking news staffers who sometimes cover events outside the office or while employees AP equipment is being repaired.
The Guild also asked why the AP discontinued the use of “For the Associated Press” as the byline for stringers and instead give stringers the same bytitle as staffers. People are upset about the lack of difference, the Guild said. The company said it would look into the matter.
The union presented to AP negotiators a petition that was signed by 21 employees of the South desk and Atlanta staffs that they presented earlier to local managers. The petition refers to the AP’s proposed health care plan as atrocious because it amounts to thousands of dollars more each year for staffers and criticizes the AP’s forced transfer proposal.
“We are also concerned by the company’s apparent refusal to maintain an adequate workforce,” the petition reads. “It is absolutely impossible for us to maintain an appropriate level of production when we have (in the Atlanta bureau, at least) a third of the staff we had five years ago. Forcing people to pile more and more tasks on their plates and to work increasingly long and erratic shifts can only lead to staff burnout and an unacceptable decrease in the value of our product.”
Individual staffers wrote their own comments, including Bill Barrow, who wrote: “To call AP’s proposal anything other than a pay cut is intellectual dishonesty the likes of which we wouldn’t publish on the wire without a rebuttal and clarification were it coming from an elected official. Further, the spousal coverage proposal suggests management values short-term, marginal savings over maintaining a family friendly company that rewards employees with stability. Stable employees become long-term contributors to the AP’s product and, thus, to a financially healthy company.”
Carol Druga, an editor on the South desk, wrote: “When the Beat of the Week is awarded, it is never to a bean counter looking for ways to squeeze the staff’s wallets more. It is always to people who go above and beyond to get that important story. AP staff keeps AP working by going above and beyond every day to get it right and to be FAIR! We are asking that AP do the same and offer those doers something FAIR for them and their families.”
To view the petition, click here:
Bargaining resumes Wednesday when the AP will present a counter proposal on health insurance.