Guild presents opening bargaining proposals

The News Media Guild proposed Thursday a 6 percent annual raise over each of the next three years for staffers at The Associated Press as the union presented much of its overall proposal to the company.

 The Guild also proposed improved job security terms to protect employees in small correspondencies and said it would present an alternative version of the AP’s manager guide evaluation. For technicians, the Guild raised questions about subcontracting concerns and the switch to Web-based delivery from satellite.

 The Guild said it wants to get copies of all evaluations in which staffers receive an overall evaluation that’s below “meets expectations” or requires a performance improvement plan from the staffer.

 The Guild also asked the AP about employees that the union believes are improperly classified as managers and should be union-covered instead. The Guild once again raised the issue of the AP laying off a photographer and using stringers to do his work.

The union proposed that the AP hire sufficient additional staff when workforce is reduced below normal and asked the company about its intentions for training. “We told the company – again – that training is a job security issue,” said Martha Waggoner, chair of the bargaining committee.

 The Guild lodged its competing health insurance and pension proposals, calling for improved benefits and increased company contributions to reduce employee out-of-pocket costs. It calls for continuance of the defined benefit plan the company wants to freeze with improved benefits and automatic vesting in the alternative pension plan given to employees hired since Dec. 1, 2006, when new entrants were no longer allowed into the defined benefit plan.

The Guild informed the AP that a consultant will advise the bargainers on health and pension matters. In addition, the Guild attorney will be involved in job security issues.

 The AP reported that in the editorial unit, 873 Guild-covered staffers are in the defined benefit (pension) program and 305 are in the alternative defined contribution plan available to those not eligible for the pension. In the technology unit, 67 are in the pension program and 24 are in the alternative defined contribution plan.

 The AP said it also would provide numbers how many staffers aren’t in either plan because they don’t work enough hours to qualify.

 The company agreed to halt bureau meetings on its pension proposal.

 The Guild also pressed its union security clause.  It also discussed a number of other articles including, grievance and arbitration procedures, dismissal pay and hours, overtime and scheduling.

Representing the Guild in addition to Waggoner were: rank-and-file bargaining team members John Braureiter, Don Ryan and Vin Cherwoo; and chief negotiator Kevin Keane.

 Representing the AP were: Sue Gilkey, global director of  benefits;  Michelle Ehrlich, global labor relations manager; Carole Feldman, director of newsroom convergence; Alison Quan and Hilda Auguste of human resources; and attorney Steve Macri.

Negotiations resume Monday.