BARGAINING: Guild, AP trade wage and health proposals

The News Media Guild bargaining team introduced a revised salary and health insurance offer to The Associated Press on Wednesday as contract negotiations neared the 18-month mark, and the AP responded with counterproposals of its own.

SALARY

The Guild’s wages offer was:

  • A 3.5 percent increase retroactive to the date that an agreement is reached
  • A 3.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2020
  • A 3.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2021
  • A 3.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2022
  • Contract language that could allow for larger increases if the cost-of-living adjustment for the prior year, as determined by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, exceeds the raises provided by AP.
  • Adding an economic differential for employees in Miami, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon.

The AP’S new offer was:

  • A $750 lump sum payment within 30 days of the ratification of a new contract. A $250 lump sump in mid-November of 2019.
  • A 2 percent increase on July 1, 2019
  • A 1.75 percent increase on July 1, 2020
  • A 1.75 percent increase on July 1, 2021.

(AP had previously offered an $800 lump sum payment within 30 days of the ratification of a new contract; a 2 percent increase on July 1, 2019; a 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2020; and a 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2021.)

The AP also said it wouldn’t add the economic differential for Miami, Seattle and Portland, and it also said no to the cost-of-living provision.

HEALTH INSURANCE

The Guild also introduced a counter proposal on health insurance that calls for:\

  • A 10 percent increase in monthly premiums for the basic and premium health plans on the following dates: July 1, 2019; Jan. 1, 2020; Jan. 1, 2021; Jan. 1, 2022.
  • Previously agreed upon increases to deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums to the health plan, as well as the addition of insurance coverage for applied behavioral analysis therapy for autism.
  • The AP has said that it wants Guild-covered employees to pay 20 percent of their health costs because that’s what managers pay. The Guild’s counterproposal includes a provision that says if the managers’ cost share dips below 20 percent, then the Guild employees’ share should decrease as well.

The AP responded with a counter-proposal calling for a 20 percent increase on the monthly premiums for the top-tier premium plan on the following dates: July 1, 2019; Jan. 1, 2020; Jan. 1, 2021; Jan. 1, 2022. (The company’s prior offer had called for a 30 percent increase in 2019, a 25 percent increase in 2020 and 15 percent increases in 2021 and 2022 for the premium plan.)

The remainder of AP’s proposal for the basic plan and a new high deductible plan remained unchanged from the past proposal (available here.)

The Guild does not yet have a written copy of AP’s new health proposal but will share it with members once we receive it.

 MOVING EXPENSES

The Guild questioned the AP on its proposal to pay out relocation expenses as a lump sum, rather than reimbursing for actual costs incurred. The Guild asked the AP for its relocation policy for managers, but the company said one doesn’t exist. The union also said the moving expenses policy needs to include a “true-up” that accounts for any taxes owed on the lump sum, so employees can take home the full amount promised by AP.

The AP responded that employees could deduct the cost on their taxes.

DIFFERENTIALS AND SCHEDULING

The Guild proposed to AP that the company pay a differential for employees who work on Saturdays. Now, employees who work on Sundays get differentials, but no extra payment is made for those who work during the day on Saturdays.  The AP said no to the proposal.

On overtime, the Guild proposed that AP lift the exemption on overtime for a handful of employees who don’t currently receive it (correspondents who supervise two or more people and who earn at least 10.1 percent above top scale pay.) AP agreed and said those employees could be eligible for overtime.

The Guild also proposed an increase for the minimum payment that technicians receive for on-call overtime. The union proposed increasing the minimum from one to two hours for technicians and from three to four hours for product and platform specialists. The AP agreed to both proposals.

LEAVES OF ABSENCE

The union questioned a company proposal that says an employee must notify Human Resources whenever he or she applies for a fellowship. Now, the employee must notify the company when he or she accepts a fellowship, and the union asked why earlier notification was needed.

The AP said such notification helps the company determine staffing needs and also which candidates to back for fellowships.

Earlier in bargaining, the AP and the Guild reached a tentative agreement to increase paid parental leave for mothers and fathers upon the birth or adoption of a child from one week to four weeks. The agreement says that the leave can be taken within 12 months of the birth or adoption, but it has not gone into effect because overall contract negotiations continue. The Guild asked for clarification on whether employees who took one week of parental leave within 12 months of an overall deal being reached would be eligible for another three weeks of paid leave, because they would still be within the 12-month window.

The AP agreed, and said there would be a 12-month “lookback” from the date a tentative agreement is reached. (So the employees mentioned above would receive the additional three weeks of paid leave once a deal is reached.)

NEXT STEPS

Bargaining will resume Thursday. 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 attorney Steve Macri, deputy managing editor David Scott, and senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications Jessica Bruce.