NEW YORK – The News Media Guild advanced a compromise pension proposal Wednesday that would almost completely address Associated Press’ cost saving targets, but the AP rejected the proposal, saying nothing but a defined contribution plan would meet its needs.
The rejection came as hundreds of AP news workers held rallies across the country and even more withheld bylines in support for the union’s quality journalism proposals.
The Guild’s revision to its “fixed cost” pension plan would save AP at least $1.6 million a year. AP had sought savings of about $2 million annually. The Guild’s actuaries said even with the savings, the fixed cost pension plan would still significantly outperform the AP’s proposal.
In its rejection, the AP said that while the Guild’s proposal was innovative and did reduce risk and cost, it did not provide the absolute certainty it needed. AP said unless the pension were eliminated, the company would have trouble obtaining credit, even though AP is nearly debt-free. The AP said it wanted to be more in line with other employers who have frozen pension plans, and that a defined contribution plan is a better fit for the workforce it wants – a mix of veterans and employees who only plan on staying at AP a few years.
The Guild’s proposal has features that are similar to multi-employer plans and other plans that have met IRS requirements, but the exact wording would need approval by IRS before it could be implemented. AP said the approval process would take too long, although CWA President Larry Cohen, who attended the meeting, said the union would help expedite the approval process.
“AP’s rejection of a sensible plan that met the company’s financial targets represents a sad and troubling corporate culture,” said Tony Winton, NMG president. “We will continue to fight for the best possible deal and then present it to the membership for approval or strike authorization.” He continued: “today’s demonstrations and byline boycott showed the depth of commitment to quality journalism across the country, and the negotiating committee will not let that effort be in vain.”
Negotiations will resume Thursday.
Representing the union were Cohen, Winton, and negotiating committee members Martha Waggoner, John Braunreiter, Vin Cherwoo, Don Ryan, Guild actuaries Karen Zangara and Rich Hudson, and Kevin Keane, the Guild’s administrator.
Representing AP were attorney Steve Macri, Michelle Ehrlich, Sue Gilkey, Hilda Auguste, Alison Quan and the AP’s actuaries, Doris Kurash and Jack Rodgers.
Also present was Kathy Murray-Cannon, a federal mediator who joined the talks Monday.