BARGAINING: Guild, AP continue discussion of job security

The Associated Press bargaining team on Wednesday told News Media Guild negotiators that its proposals on job security for the editorial and technology units are their best and final offers, barring any “significant compromise” from the union.

Both sides have been negotiating a rewrite to job security language for nearly a year, and the heart of the discussion all deals with layoffs. The Guild agrees that changes are needed to the current job security language, because in the past, senior employees facing layoffs have been offered jobs that weren’t at all comparable to what they were doing before. That led to the senior employee not passing a trial period and ultimately being laid off.

The Guild has agreed to many of AP’s proposed changes, including the creation of organizational units. Here is a breakdown of the current proposal:

SENIORITY AND LAYOFFS

No one “loses” seniority under this proposal – an employee with 30 years of experience today will have 30 years of service under the new proposal. The big difference is what happens during layoffs if a senior employee wants to bump a junior employee in a different organizational unit.

Hypothetically: A senior employee who works in U.S. News in Chicago wants to bump a junior employee who is a Health and Science newsperson in Chicago. If the senior employee had worked in Health and Science within the past five years, he or she would be deemed competent in the professional subject matter for the new job. If the senior employee can use the equipment and software needed for the new job, then he or she would get the new job.

The Guild has strongly objected to the so-called “five-year lookback rule.” AP says the news business is evolving quickly so some type of time constraint is needed.

It is important to note that employees wouldn’t be barred from a job in another organizational unit if they don’t have experience within the past five years. They could still get the new job if they can demonstrate professional competency in the subject matter of the new organizational unit. That can be demonstrated or described, based on past experience or outside education and training.

For layoffs within an organizational unit: an employee is considered professionally competent for all jobs within their classification in their organizational unit. (So a newsperson in Sports is considered professionally competent for all newsperson jobs in Sports.)

For many bureaus – especially those with only US News and Sports employees – the new proposal is very similar to current language.

TRIAL PERIODS

Under current contract language, a senior employee who wants to bump a junior employee can be subject to a trial period. AP has sole discretion over whether an employee passes that trial period (and employees rarely pass.)  AP says its new proposal is a big concession to the Guild because it gives employees an opportunity to exercise seniority rights without a trial period. However, AP would retain its right to sole discretion after an employee completes a four week training period in the use of technology.

SEVERANCE PAY

Severance pay would remain unchanged (two weeks of pay for every year of service, plus an extra week). For some employees in the editorial unit, it would increase. If AP lays off an employee who is the only person in their organizational unit in their bureau, then that person would get additional severance that’s also granted to solo correspondents. That extra severance would be: an extra four weeks of pay for fewer than five years of service; an extra eight weeks of pay for fewer than 10 years of service; an extra 10 weeks of pay for fewer than 15 years of service; and an extra 12 weeks of pay for 15 or more years of service.

TECHNOLOGY UNIT CHANGES

Now, Global Help Desk and Customer Support employees have limited job security because they are not attached to any business location. This proposal would allow for seniority to be determined within the Global Help Desk and Customer Support organizational units, regardless of geographic location. TU employees who are on-site techs would be part of the US Field Operations organizational unit and would be subject to the geography-based seniority that is part of the current contract.

Bargaining resumes Thursday.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Alison Quan, director of human resources, technology and business operations; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.