BARGAINING: Guild advances counter-proposal on job security

The News Media Guild and The Associated Press met Tuesday for more contract negotiations on job security.

The Guild advanced a counter-proposal on job security to the AP. Here is how the Guild proposal compares to current language in the contract:

WHAT’S THE SAME:

-There are no changes to how an employee’s years of service are measured. For example, a 30-year employee will still have credit for 30 years of service.

-A senior employee cannot displace another employee who works in another business location (i.e. a different bureau, city or state).

-In smaller bureaus where all employees work in the same department and report to the same manager, the process for layoffs is largely unchanged from the current contract.

-AP must continue to pay severance to laid-off workers, including extra severance for solo correspondents. The dollar amount of severance does not decrease and in some cases, would increase.

-Layoffs must still occur in reverse order of seniority, beginning with the least-senior employee.

-Under most circumstances, AP must still solicit volunteers to take buyouts before laying someone off. If more than one person volunteers, the more-senior employee would get the buyout.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT:

-The Guild proposal adopts the AP concept of organizational units, which would, essentially, create more verticals. The majority of Guild-covered employees would be part of U.S. News. Essentially, if an employee works under the regional desk system (Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix), then he or she is part of U.S. News.

The other organizational units are: International News, Washington News, Global Enterprise (including Global Investigations), Sports News, Business News, Health and Science News, Entertainment News, Religion News, News Operations (including the Spokane Data Center), Digital News (which includes Nerve Center and News Research), Broadcast, and Photos.

-AP would conduct layoffs within the organizational unit within the business location – for example, choosing to lay off the least-senior person in Health and Science in Chicago. However, under the Guild proposal, that person could claim a seniority right to displace a junior person in another organizational unit in Chicago if the senior employee has previous experience in that unit, and the skills and qualifications to do the work. The Guild believes this proposal addresses AP concerns about current operations, while still preserving job security because employees could exercise seniority rights in other organizational units.

-AP must still solicit volunteers for a buyout if the company determines a reduction in force is necessary. However, the AP could deny a volunteer’s offer if he or she is the only person in the organizational unit in the bureau with the skills and qualifications to do the remaining work.

-Both the Guild and AP proposals call for a training period. This occurs if a senior employee scheduled for layoff hasn’t received training that was previously provided to a junior employee in the same organizational unit in the same bureau. The AP proposal calls for a four-week training period and the Guild proposal calls for an eight-week training period. Under the Guild proposal, an employee facing a layoff could decline the training period, take the layoff, and receive an additional 12 weeks of severance pay.

-The Guild proposal also calls for additional severance pay if AP lays off an employee who is the only person in their organizational unit in their bureau. The Guild proposal would extend to them the same extra severance available to solo correspondents: four weeks of pay for fewer than five years of service; eight weeks of pay for five years to fewer than 10 years of service; 10 weeks of pay for 10 years to fewer than 15 years of service; and 12 weeks of pay for 15 years of service or more.

(For reference, the regular severance pay for everyone is: two weeks of pay for the first six months of service, plus two weeks of pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 72 weeks.)

-The Guild, responding to an earlier AP proposal, also included language regarding employment discrimination cases. The proposal says that an employee can’t simultaneously pursue a discrimination case through arbitration if he or she has also filed an employment lawsuit or a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case could go to arbitration once the charge or lawsuit has been adjudicated.

Bargaining will resume Wednesday.

Representing the Guild were: Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; David Scott, deputy managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.