EFE: No qualified U.S. candidates for news internships

The EFE News Service says it wants to scrap a program that allows U.S. college students to qualify for journalism internships because a three-year experiment failed to garner quality U.S. candidates. Instead, the Madrid-based news agency wants to offer its coveted U.S. internships exclusively to students enrolled at educational institutions in Spain. The Guild said it would continue to press for educational diversity in the program, because it’s often a pathway to full-time employment at EFE.

“We think a news organization operating in the U.S. should try to attract at least some U.S. citizens as journalists, and that starts with having an intern program recruiting from colleges in both America and Spain,” said Jorge Bañales, the bargaining unit chair.

After two initial sessions in June, the third bargaining meeting in Miami was the first to yield written tentative agreements. Some 18 articles were initialed during Monday’s session (full list below).

Among the unresolved issues is an employer proposal that could greatly increase the caseload of grievances, even for minor matters if they affect more than one employee at a time. If there were an office-wide safety issue that affected 20 people, for example, EFE’s language would require the filing of 20 separate grievances, with 20 separate grievance meetings, and 20 separate arbitrations. Since a first contract in 2006, no EFE grievance has ever gone to arbitration and all cases have been successfully resolved, including “class action” grievances.

Also on Monday, the Guild rejected EFE’s initial wage offer. EFE’s plan would abolish the current wage structure and replace it with a wage “pool” that it alone would control. EFE’s plan would mean that workers could have their incomes abruptly cut without cause or even explanation.  The Guild said it would advance a wage counterproposal in due time.

The union and the company initialed the following tentative agreements: Checkoff, Guild Security, Payroll Information, Probationary Period, Non-Discrimination, Seniority, Individual Bargaining, Hours, Overtime, and Work Schedules, Part-Time and Temporary Employees, Holidays, Vacations, Military Service, Sick Leave, Outside Work, Bulletin Boards, Miscellaneous, Indemnification Clause for EFE News Service, and a new article, Employee Integrity (which confirms an employee’s right to withhold a byline).
The parties had scheduled a meeting for Oct. 24th but EFE said it was not available for discussions. The parties said they would contact each other about setting a new bargaining date.

Representing the Guild were Washington journalists Bañales and Alfonso Fernandez, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE were Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.