AP Seeks Pension, Medical Concessions

NEW YORK — The Associated Press has proposed freezing the pension plans for editorial and technology staffers covered by the News Media Guild contract, bringing swift reactions from those employees.

The proposal came Tuesday, the second day of bargaining between the NMG and the AP. The contract expires Nov. 30.  The AP also proposed steep increases in health insurance.

The AP proposed freezing the defined benefit – or pension – plan effective June 30, 2011. Any benefit earned by that point would remain the same. At that point, staffers would be moved into a 3 percent defined contribution plan.

The AP proposed a five-year transition plan, contingent upon continued employment, for those employees participating in the pension plan as of June 30, 2011. Under that proposal, employees with 10 or more years of service would receive an additional  2 percent contribution; employees with less than 10 years would receive an additional 1 percent.

After five years or when employment ends, the staffers would continue in the 3 percent defined contribution plan.

“No matter what else is in the contract, I will vote “NO” and encourage others to do so if it includes a freeze on our pensions,” one AP staffer wrote on the Guild’s listserv.

Another staffer wrote: “I will fight ‘til the bitter end.”

The AP also wants to merge the administration of its three defined benefit plans – editorial, technology and administrative – into a single plan, possibly as soon as Jan. 1, 2012.

The AP also proposed increases in health insurance, along a new, third plan called the standard plan that provides fewer benefits than the basic plan, now called the core plan. An employee in the premium plan would pay $36.78 more a month for employee-only coverage, an increase of almost 49 percent.

Sue Gilkey, AP’s global director of employee benefits, said the company plans an open enrollment period after a contract is signed. Staffers who fail to choose a plan would be automatically placed in the core plan.

Representing the Guild at the table were Kevin Keane, the union’s chief negotiator; Martha Waggoner, chair of the bargaining committee; and bargaining committee members John Braunreiter and Don Ryan.

In addition to Gilkey, others representing the AP at the table were the company’s attorney, Steve Macri; Kristin Gazlay,  vice president and managing editor of financial news and global training; Carole Feldman, director of newsroom convergence; and Alison Quan and Hilda Auguste of human resources.