AP rejects Guild proposals to improve retirement benefits

The News Media Guild proposed several improvements to the retirement benefits, all of which The Associated Press rejected.

Over two days of bargaining this week, the Guild proposed that defined contribution benefits be applied to all earnings, including overtime, as was the case with the 401(k) program. The AP said it wasn’t interested in improving the plan during a time when it’s already providing an enhancement, referring to the additional 2 percent or 1 percent company contribution that the AP is providing now, based on years of service.

Staffers with 10 years or more of service receive the 2 percent enhancement while those with up to 10 years receive 1 percent. That enhancement ends June 30, 2019.

The Guild also proposed immediate vesting in the defined contribution plan; employees now must wait three years for vesting. The AP said it’s not interested in providing a vesting benefit for employees who may not stay on the job.

The AP now contributes quarterly to the DC plan. Its bargainers refused a proposal from the Guild that the company contribute bi-weekly.

The company also rejected a Guild proposal that AP guarantee bi-weekly paychecks. Although AP now pays Guild-covered staffers bi-weekly, the contract doesn’t require that. The AP could move to pay staffers bi-monthly or monthly.

The two sides did agree to keep the current side letter on stock photography. They also reached a tentative agreement on new vacation language that limits the number of carryover vacation days that must be used in a year.

The AP had previously advised managers to have staffers use seven days of carryover vacation each year, but some managers told staffers recently that they must use all but seven of the carryover days. The new language says staffers must use seven days of carryover vacation, which do not carry seniority rights.

The Guild and AP also reached a tentative agreement on temporaries.

The Guild also proposed changes to the health and safety language to require the AP to provide ergonomic equipment and furniture to staffers who must work from home because the AP closed their offices. Last year, the AP closed several offices of one-person correspondents and refused to provide ergonomic equipment and furniture, even though the staffers were told they had to work from home.

The Guild asked the AP about the sale of Stats Inc., a sports scores company of which the company owned half. The company said it couldn’t confirm the sale price of $200 million that several media outlets reported because the contract prevented that. AP bargainers did say AP’s share of the sale — which would be $100 million if the reports were correct — would go toward fully funding the pension.

On the thorny issue of news associates, the AP said it wasn’t backing down from its stance that the positions be of a fixed, two-year term. The Guild has agreed to the AP’s demand that the positions be fixed cost but not the fixed term. AP said it’s not budging.