AP improves wage offer as company, Guild continue to discuss news associates

The Associated Press improved its economic offer to Guild-covered staffers as the union and the company bargained over three days this week.

The company’s original wage offer was 1.5 percent in the first year; 1.75 percent in the second year; and 2 percent in the third, with a $500 lump sum in the second year.

On Thursday, the company said it would pay more in raises upfront with 2 percent in the first year; 1.75 percent in the second year; and 1.5 percent in the third, with a $500 lump sum payable upon ratification of a new contract.

This means a top-scale editorial unit employee who now earns $1,250.99 a week would make $1,276.01 a week in the first year; $1,298.34 in the second and $1,317.82 in the third. Under the first proposal, those employees would have earned $1,269.75 in the first year; $1,291.98 in the second year; and the same, $1,317.82 in the third.

Total new dollars annually under the first proposal would have been $7,091.93, including the $500 bonus. Under the new proposal, the figure is $7,738.13, including the bonus. For AP’s explanation of wage increases, click here

In response to employees who have a spouse and more than one child on health insurance, the company proposed adding two new tiers of employee plus two or more children and employee, spouse and two or more children.

Previously, the company had tiers for employee and family or employee and one child. And the company wants to kick working spouses and domestic partners off health insurance. This would mean that employees with a spouse and more than two children would have had to continue to pay the family rate while also paying for separate coverage of their spouse or domestic partner.

“This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough,” News Media Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “The Guild believes that some employees will still pay thousands of dollars more for health insurance for their spouse or domestic partners, on top of the more than $8 million in cost-shifting that the company seeks. While we appreciate the slight increase in the wage offer, it’s not enough to make up for the huge amounts that staffers would pay extra for health insurance.”

For the proposed 2014 rates and new tiers, click here

For the proposed 2015 rates and new tiers, click here.

For the proposed 2016 rates and new tiers, click here.

The company and the Guild reached no agreement on news associates, the two-year positions that the company wants to add at regional desks. The company wants to hire people to handle work such as member exchanges and member pickups. It has proposed that they have no job security, meaning the company could lay them all off at the end of two years.

“Such conditions could encourage workers not to speak up for their rights and to endure abuse that a more secure worker can object to,” Waggoner said. The company could “pick and choose who stays regardless of the quality of their work and that would undermine quality journalism.”

The company said that since no agreement has been reached on these positions, it plans to start a shared news desk with no more than four temporary employees who can work only for nine months under the contract. The pilot program likely would be located in Chicago or Atlanta, the company said.

The temporary staffers will work under current contract terms and not under the reduced terms that AP seeks for news associates, the company said.

Also, the Guild proposed health and safety language clarifying that the company must provide appropriate equipment and furniture for people who work from home.

The company and the Guild bargained Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Representing the Guild in addition to Waggoner were John Braunreiter, Stephanie Nano, administrator Kevin Keane and attorney Barbara Camens. Representing the AP were Jessica Bruce and attorney Steve Macri.

Bargaining continues June 16-17.