BARGAINING: Guild, AP reach overall tentative agreement

News Media Guild bargainers reached an overall tentative agreement for its contracts with The Associated Press on Thursday. The Guild bargaining team believes it would need intense mobilization or a possible strike to make any more progress at the table, and for that reason, the Guild negotiators are recommending that these contracts for the editorial and technology units be approved. The final decision will be up to members.

Guild and AP bargainers have met 52 times since August 2017. The last contract expired Sept. 30, 2017.

AP has offered its final proposals, which the Guild bargainers cannot change at the table.  The Guild will announce a referendum election soon.

Here are the details, which include a few changes in wages and moving expenses from yesterday’s bulletin:

  • A lump sum payment of $750 upon ratification; a 2 percent raise on July 1, 2019; a $250 lump sum on Jan. 1, 2020; a 1.75 percent raise on July 1, 2020; a $250 lump sum on Jan. 1, 2021; and a 1.75 percent raise on July 1, 2021.
  • Increases of 20 percent to the monthly premiums on the top-tier premium health plan. The increases would take effect July 1, 2019; Jan. 1, 2020; Jan. 1, 2021; and Jan. 1, 2022. Lower increases to the basic health plan and the addition of an optional high deductible health plan. Another open-enrollment period would occur before these increases take effect, and the high deductible plan would be available beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
  • The contract would have an effective date of Jan. 31, 2019, and expire on June 30, 2022.
  • No changes to the amount of vacation or holidays an employee receives.
  • Merges the editorial, administrative and technology pension plans into a single plan to save on administrative costs. This does not change any pension benefits or the plan design.
  • No changes to severance pay, except in the situation described below when severance would increase.
  • Adoption of new job security language that was previously discussed at great length. Adoption of new job security language for technicians that says seniority can be measured within the virtual work groups of Global Help Desk and Customer Support, rather than business locations. Increasing the amount of severance paid to a laid-off employee in the editorial unit who is the only person in his or her organizational unit at a bureau.
  • Quadrupling the amount of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers upon the birth or adoption of a child (from one week paid to four weeks paid.) This is in addition to the short-term disability benefit for women who give birth.
  • Changing contract language to allow employees to use sick days to care for ill children, spouses and parents. (Now, employees can only use sick days for themselves.) The language change also allows mothers and fathers to use sick days after the birth or adoption of a child, which could extend paid parental leaves by an additional two weeks.
  • Adding insurance coverage for a commonly prescribed treatment for autism called applied behavioral analysis therapy
  • Adopting a lump sum reimbursement system for moving expenses. An employee who is relocating would receive a $7,500 lump sum. If the employee is selling his or her primary home, another $5,000 payment would be made, along with an additional $2,000 if the employee has a spouse who is moving and another $2,000 if the employee has a child or children.
  • Extending flexible scheduling to employees on the news side who elect to do so. This does not apply to employees who work fixed shifts, like desk editors, breaking news staffers or supervisors.
  • Restricting overtime for employees on overseas sports events like the Olympics. This limitation applies only to travel days flying to and from the international location. On those days, an employee would receive eight hours of pay. Once on site, the employee would still receive OT for covering the events and for time spent traveling to and from sports venues.
  • No changes to the number and location of news associates allowed under the contract, but changing language to allow news associates to apply for AP jobs prior to the completion of their two-year assignments. Also allowing news associates to search for, permission and prepare for publication user-generated content; and rearranging stacks within AP’s mobile app. No original reporting, bylines or credits are permitted.

Full details of the tentative agreement will be provided to members ahead of the referendum.

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 deputy managing editor David Scott, attorney Steve Macri, and senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications Jessica Bruce.