Negotiators with the News Media Guild met with The Associated Press bargaining team this week for ongoing contract talks. Job security and who’s covered by the bargaining unit dominated the discussions.
Representing the Guild were: Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.
Representing the AP were: Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Brian Carovillano, managing editor; David Scott, deputy managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.
Here is an update on some of the issues still outstanding:
AP this week introduced changes to its job security proposal intended to address some of the Guild’s concerns. The proposal still places employees into different organizational units, with the majority of Guild-covered staff part of U.S. News. AP has said that in the event of a layoff, a senior employee will be deemed qualified to do the work within his or her organizational unit within the business location. That means a newsperson in U.S. News working in New York City would be deemed qualified for all newsperson work in U.S. News in New York City for example, and could exercise seniority rights in the event of a layoff.
The company says an exception would exist if an employee is unable to utilize existing technology performed by a less senior person in the affected job category. If an employee in the organizational unit received technology training that was not offered to the affected employee, the company would provide four weeks of training before a decision could be made on qualifications and skills.
The proposal creates a number of organizational units involving specialized work, like health and science, religion, and enterprise/investigations, to name a few. The Guild has argued that employees who work in those units should be able to exercise seniority rights within the much larger U.S. News unit in the event of layoffs if they are able to do the work. This week, AP agreed and said that if an employee had previously worked as a general newsperson within five years of the layoff date, he or she is deemed qualified to do U.S. News work and can exercise seniority there. For example, if an employee worked as a general assignment reporter within the past five years and was then promoted to a religion writer, he or she could still exercise seniority rights within US News in his or her bureau during a layoff.
The Guild says it must be provided with a list of all employees viewed as general newsperson and those who are not. Talks will continue on the job security article.
The coverage article of the contract determines which jobs are Guild-covered and which are management. AP gave a revised version this week intended to reflect the management reorganization now in progress. The Guild has suggested changes to limit some of the language but is still reviewing the proposal in full.
SALARY AND HEALTH INSURANCE
The past few contract talks have focused entirely on job security with no discussions or changes to salary and health insurance proposals. The Guild negotiating team still believes that the AP proposals of massive health insurance increases coupled with nominal raises are unacceptable.
The Guild is still seeking economic differentials for Miami and Seattle, as well as a weekend differential for work on Saturdays.
There have been no discussions to decrease or substantially change severance. However, this article remains open because some employees could qualify for more severance pay under the job security proposal, and the Guild team expects to resolve this alongside job security.
The AP still wants to limit the amount of overtime it pays to employees working international sporting events. The company has modified its proposal to remove military maneuvers. It has also proposed limiting overtime only for travel time to and from the United States to the sporting event. Overtime would still be paid once employees arrive in the country to cover the events.
AP wants to pay employees lump sums for moving expenses rather than reimbursing for actual expenses incurred during a move.
The company’s revised proposal calls for: a $5,000 lump sum, an additional $5,000 if the sale of a primary residence is required, an additional $2,000 for the relocation of a child or children and an additional $2,000 for the relocation of a spouse, or a maximum of $14,000.
The Guild has told AP that those amounts are too low and some employees would lose money under the proposal.
Bargaining will resume July 18. The Guild bargaining team would to remind colleagues that more members give negotiators a stronger voice and more leverage at the table. A sign-up card can be printed out here.