AP says it wants changes in mileage minimums for photographers, others

A company proposal to eliminate the minimum mileage for Guild-covered employees would also affect weekly minimums for photographers, videographers, video journalists and some hybrid journalists, Associated Press bargainers said Monday.

Last week, the company proposed eliminating the minimum $15 mileage expense. News Media Guild bargainers asked Monday if that would “explode” contract language that gives photographers and others weekly expense of five times the daily minimum. The company said yes and that it expected to have a proposal soon.

The Guild asked the company to provide a cost savings estimate on the proposal.

The company said it also plans to introduce a proposal that calls for caps on reimbursements for anyone who has to relocate within a designated region.

In response to Guild questioning, the company said staffers not required to report to an office to work are attached to their business location. The Guild raised the question out of concerns about job security for those who work from home.

“The company proposals amount to a pay cut for employees when they are being required to do more with less,” said Guild bargainer Don Ryan. “The new proposal, along with AP’s health insurance, transfers and reduced severance, would increase the exodus of employees which AP must stem to remain competitive.”

The Guild asked about the company’s proposal to be able to move staffers from a bureau that may have too many employees to one that needs more workers. The company said it was unlikely that it would then immediately fill the now-vacant position, although it might do so in the future.

The Guild said it was concerned the company would use Performance Improvement Plans, which would put people under a microscope, to build cases to force staffers to relocate or be fired. Staffers would be pressured to accept a transfer even when the company case lacks merit.

The Guild raised concerns about the production goals, saying some staffers are asked to remove bylines and cut words to make stories fit a different target. The company said it has the right to repackage its products to meet the business needs.

The two sides also discussed the outside work rules, with the Guild saying managers reject requests from staffers that they be allowed to do freelance work because saying no is easy. The company said it’s always in staffers’ best interest to discuss any potential outside work with their manager before agreeing to it.

Bargaining resumes Tuesday.