AP has terminated NMG contracts — what happens now

The Associated Press has sent the News Media Guild notice that it is terminating its expired contract with its employees on Dec. 5, 2013.

Here’s how this works. When an expired contract is terminated, the National Labor Relations Act requires the company to honor the status quo terms and conditions of the existing contract until an agreement or impasse is reached. (More in impasse later in this post).

For example, AP cannot on Dec. 6 enact its health insurance, forced transfer, reduced dismissal pay proposals or any other proposals. It cannot adopt new policies that affect terms and conditions of employment without providing advance notice to the union so it can decide if it wants to negotiate. In the event of a staff reduction, AP must honor seniority and issue notice and severance pay.

AP would not be obliged to arbitrate most post-expiration grievances, but it would have to arbitrate a grievance that arose prior to the contract’s termination even if it is submitted to arbitration after Dec. 5.

The company would be obliged to meet with the union to discuss grievances. A refusal to do so would be a violation of the NLRA because it would constitute a failure to bargain.

The Non-Interference article, which states that union members acting under the Guild’s authority will not interfere with company production or delivery of its products to customers, also terminates.

The termination of the contract does not mean the parties are at impasse, which would allow the company to impose its proposed terms without reaching a negotiated settlement with its employees bargaining representative.

Impasse occurs when the two sides negotiating a contract are unable to reach an agreement and become deadlocked.

The Guild has negotiated contracts in the past after the previous agreements expired.

The union has a Duration and Renewal proposal on the table that would prevent such contract terminations in the future. It would incorporate an Evergreen clause that would prevent a termination until an agreement or impasse is reached. It would also make negotiated terms retroactive to the expiration date.

The company has resisted the proposal in the past as a bargaining strategy to force employees to accept unwanted changes. The union wants it in the contract to stop AP’s punitive approach in how it deals with its staff.

Employees should promptly contact their shop steward, regional representative or the Guild office direct at 212-869-9290 or kkeane@newsmediaguild.org for advice or assistance.