AP proposes dead-end positions to handle news work

The Associated Press on Thursday proposed a new dead-end editorial unit classification that would turn over newsperson work to a group of people with little experience who would work for no more than two years.

The new class of workers, called news associates, would do Class A news work in all formats for the state news report, including pickups, daybooks, editorial roundups and other work, along with filing photos and videos and captioning photos. The company said it needs a fixed-cost way to meet increasing demands with fewer EU staffers.

The AP said it would hire no more than 16 news associates at one time. They would work on the four regional desks.

Top-scale Class A employees now performing those chores and other news duties are now paid $1,250.99 a week.

The current pay for a second-year newsperson that would apply to news associates now pays $875.65. They would not receive wage increases, economic or shift differentials. They would not accrue seniority, dismissal indemnity or severance pay.

They would have 40-hour work weeks, but they could work more than eight hours a day without overtime. They could work two 20-hour days with no overtime. They would not be covered by scheduling rules so they can be summoned to work without notice and without penalty pay while being assigned to work an unlimited amount of consecutive days of work..

They would be barred from transferring to a new job or from getting a regular position during their employment.

They would be entitled to health insurance, retirement benefits, vacations and holidays.

News associates completing the two-year job would receive retroactive payment for wage increases previously denied during their first year of employment. They would have to sign paperwork killing off the pursuit of potential grievances to receive the payment

“This proposal will destroy some unit work, including that of breaking news staffers and editorial assistants,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “These news associates would essentially do our work in dead-end jobs. We see these allowing the AP to lay off more and more people now in newsperson and photo editing jobs.”

The company also advanced new proposal on health insurance, forced transfers and dismissal pay. On forced transfers, the company withdrew its demand that it be allowed to force any employee to transfer elsewhere without cause to address staffing situations. It is now pressing for the right to force a transfer when it claims to have “just cause.” If the employee refuses to move claiming the company lacks just cause to force the relocation, AP will issue dismissal pay because it says the employee will be viewed as having resigned because he/she refused to obey an order.

The Guild opposes the proposal because this provision would allow the AP to force someone to transfer unjustly, and it could then take a year or more for an arbitrator to resolve the issue. “In the meantime, a staffer likely will quit their AP job so they can return home. It’s another way to kick staffers out the door,” bargainer John Braunreiter said.

On dismissal indemnity/severance pay, AP withdrew its proposal to cut severance, notice and notice pay from as much as 84 weeks to no more than 52 weeks for employees with 10 or more years of service. Under the company’s new proposal, employees with fewer than 10 years would get one-half the amount of severance paid to longer service staffers and employees fired for poor performance would receive one-half of a week of dismissal pay for each year of service.

Health insurance will be addressed in a separate bulletin. However, the company proposal still includes kicking working spouses off AP health insurance.