EFE: No Such Thing As a Normal Workday

WASHINGTON, Mar. 12  – After 15 months of bargaining, EFE News Services introduced a new and far reaching proposal that would

Guild members stand united  outside the door to EFE's Washington, DC bureau before contract talks resume Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Guild members stand united outside the door to EFE’s Washington, DC bureau before contract talks resumed, Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

end the concept of a normal workday, all but eliminate overtime, and dismantle scheduling protections for workers. EFE also reversed course on the severance pay article, adding a new penalty for workers who could not accept a transfer.

EFE’s new proposals came after the Guild told the Employer it would agree to the company’s previous hours, overtime and scheduling proposal (with a minor change regarding using English in posted schedules) and EFE’s December severance proposal. At the time, both EFE and the Guild viewed bargaining over these items as largely complete.

“EFE launched today an assault on family life,” said Jorge Bañales, the Guild’s unit chair.

EFE’s new proposal would:

  • Allow that “an Employee’s work hours may fluctuate from week to week and from day to day, due to business conditions or other factors.”
  • Place all workers on a “call off” system in which EFE would “attempt” to give at least two hour’s notice to employees on whether or not they should report to work at their regular time. This would mean that an employee might be required to work much longer on one day, then be told to come in later on the next.
  • Allow EFE to tell a worker to go home after they had already reported for work. An employee would have to make up the hours later in the week. The employer might pay two hours wages in some circumstances if an employee was sent home.
  • In the case of having a workday “cancelled,” an employee could “choose” to not get paid or use a vacation day.
  • Remove the guarantee that there be at least 12 hours of rest between one day’s assignment and the next.
  • No longer count paid time off as part of the workweek for overtime purposes. This would mean that if an employee had a holiday or vacation day during a Monday-Friday week, he or she would not earn premium overtime for working on a weekend.
  • Remove the promise that EFE would hold schedule changes to the “absolute minimum possible” now in the contract.

On the severance issue, EFE proposed new language that would impose a 75% penalty if an employee declined a transfer to another bureau. Currently, employees’ severance is capped at 36 week’s pay. In the case of a declined transfer, the Company’s severance proposal would cap severance at nine week’s pay.

EFE Guild members mobilize in Miami, March 12, 2013
EFE Guild members mobilize in Miami, March 12, 2013

Guild negotiator Jorge Bañales said the proposal would unfairly penalize staffers who could not transfer for family reasons, such caring for a parent with cancer, or an inability to move because of a divorce court order.

Meanwhile, EFE staffers demonstrated unity in all of the Employer’s major U.S. offices Tuesday, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Nosotros Somos EFE” (We are EFE) in Spain’s national colors of red and yellow.

The company initialed the union’s proposal on expenses that was agreed to in 2012.

Talks, which began in December, 2011 will resume Thursday.

Representing the Guild were Bañales, negotiating committee member Winston Rodríguez, Tony Winton, chief negotiator, and Kevin Keane, NMG administrator.

Representing EFE were Ignacio Sanz, EFE’s General Manager, José María Cernuda, vice president of Human Resources in Madrid, José Manuel Sanz, EFE News Services vice president, and attorney Arturo Ross.