AP gives notice of terminating NMG contracts

The Associated Press gave notice Thursday that it’s terminating the editorial and technology unit contracts, which either side can do with 14 days’ notice.

Terms and conditions of the contract remain in place even after the contract expires Dec. 5, although a few rights and protections now enjoyed by AP and its unionized staff would be affected. There can be no wage or benefit cuts, forced transfers or reduced dismissal indemnity payments unless a new contract contains those terms or an impasse is reached. The Guild will post another bulletin on what impasse means and what happens after a contract is terminated.

The termination notice came after the Guild told the AP that that its health-care proposals violate the contract because it raises employee contributions more than allowed.

The Guild said the proposal, which shifts more than $10 million in costs to union-covered employees, violates Article 26, Section 8 of the contract. That section says that when future employee contributions are set, “the contributions will be calculated using the projected cost by tier for the upcoming year, including trend assumptions. The contributions will not be ‘trued-up’ or otherwise account for operating losses from prior years.”

Freezing the health insurance contributions for the life of the contract and that language was part of an overall agreement, which included the termination of the defined benefit pension plan.

The Guild says the AP’s proposal goes well beyond the trend for health care insurance with proposed increases of as much as 57 percent in 2014 for the employee-only premium plan and as much as 27 percent in 2015 for the employee-only basic plan.

Also taking a big hit would be people on the employee and child plan: AP proposes increases of 63 percent in 2014 for the premium plan and 32 percent in 2015 on the basic plan.

The AP said the language only applies during the life of the contract. The Guild disagrees.

The AP says its revised proposal shifts more than $10 million in costs to employees, compared to the original company proposal that shifted more than $11 million. The revised proposal shifts only $1.5 million less to staffers than the original proposal. The company says it made a cultural shift by dropping a proposal for the high-deductible plan and keeping the premium plan. The premium plan is widely popular with Guild-covered staffers with 95 percent on that plan.

The company says its revised proposal illustrates AP’s desire to shift employees to the basic plan.

In its notice of termination, the AP said it no longer wants a directory of Guild officers or Weingarten rights included in the contract because they’re not part of the collective bargaining agreement. AP has not raised that objection for decades when the union printed the contracts and AP purchased some for its managers.

Bargaining resumes Dec. 11.