The Associated Press on Wednesday revised upward its wages proposal, but said the News Media Guild needed to accept its proposals to modify how moving expenses are paid as well as wholesale changes to the job security language.
On wages, the AP proposed: a 1.5 percent increase on the date of ratification; an $800 lump sum on Dec. 1, 2018; a 1.5 percent increase on Nov. 1, 2019; and a 1.5 percent increase on Dec. 1, 2020. The AP proposal would set an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2021, for the contract.
The proposal is a slight increase from the company’s most recent counter offer in May.
The Guild rejected the proposal.
AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee joined negotiators at the table Wednesday. She praised the work of AP employees, particularly the recent coverage on immigration as well as Guild member Jon Lemire’s questioning of President Donald Trump in Helsinki.
“We’ve been so thrilled lately at the work that our U.S. staff is doing. The last couple of weeks have just been so inspiring in so many ways,” she said.
The Guild negotiators told AP management that it agrees the bargaining unit members are doing extraordinary work _ but that it is demoralizing and insulting to receive wage and insurance proposals that amount to a pay cut.
The Guild team also told AP that its health insurance proposal would likely drive out employees, especially those with family plans. Now, a family premium plan that covers an employee, spouse and children costs the employee $409 in health insurance premiums. AP wants that number to rise to $764 per month by 2021.
AP said its managers are paying 20 percent of the cost of health insurance so Guild-covered employees should do the same.
The AP responded that the media industry is still “disrupted” and that tough business decisions must be made to ensure the company’s long-term sustainability and success.
Also Wednesday, the company said it was unwilling to move on its previous proposal on moving expenses that would give employees a lump sum rather than reimbursement for the actual costs incurred. That lump sum payment would cap at $14,000, although some previous expenses ran well beyond that. It would set a $5,000 minimum.
The Guild has previously received details of moving expenses involving two dozen employees over the past few years. Seven people were reimbursed for moving expenses of $5,000 or less, while 17 people incurred more than $5,000 in moving expenses. Of that same group, nine people had expenses above the $14,000 maximum that would be allowed under AP’s proposal. The highest reported reimbursement for moving costs was more than $44,000.
On job security, the AP said it wants the Guild to accept its most recent proposal. The Guild has shown its willingness to create organizational units, but said senior employees must be able to exercise seniority rights in another organizational unit (in the same bureau) if he or she has past experience doing that work.
Bargaining resumes Thursday.
Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle, and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.
Representing the AP were: Sally Buzbee, executive editor; Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Brian Carovillano, managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.
Negotiators with the News Media Guild met with The Associated Press bargaining team this week for ongoing contract talks. Job security and who’s covered by the bargaining unit dominated the discussions.
Representing the Guild were: Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.
Representing the AP were: Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Brian Carovillano, managing editor; David Scott, deputy managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.
Here is an update on some of the issues still outstanding:
AP this week introduced changes to its job security proposal intended to address some of the Guild’s concerns. The proposal still places employees into different organizational units, with the majority of Guild-covered staff part of U.S. News. AP has said that in the event of a layoff, a senior employee will be deemed qualified to do the work within his or her organizational unit within the business location. That means a newsperson in U.S. News working in New York City would be deemed qualified for all newsperson work in U.S. News in New York City for example, and could exercise seniority rights in the event of a layoff.
The company says an exception would exist if an employee is unable to utilize existing technology performed by a less senior person in the affected job category. If an employee in the organizational unit received technology training that was not offered to the affected employee, the company would provide four weeks of training before a decision could be made on qualifications and skills.
The proposal creates a number of organizational units involving specialized work, like health and science, religion, and enterprise/investigations, to name a few. The Guild has argued that employees who work in those units should be able to exercise seniority rights within the much larger U.S. News unit in the event of layoffs if they are able to do the work. This week, AP agreed and said that if an employee had previously worked as a general newsperson within five years of the layoff date, he or she is deemed qualified to do U.S. News work and can exercise seniority there. For example, if an employee worked as a general assignment reporter within the past five years and was then promoted to a religion writer, he or she could still exercise seniority rights within US News in his or her bureau during a layoff.
The Guild says it must be provided with a list of all employees viewed as general newsperson and those who are not. Talks will continue on the job security article.
The coverage article of the contract determines which jobs are Guild-covered and which are management. AP gave a revised version this week intended to reflect the management reorganization now in progress. The Guild has suggested changes to limit some of the language but is still reviewing the proposal in full.
SALARY AND HEALTH INSURANCE
The past few contract talks have focused entirely on job security with no discussions or changes to salary and health insurance proposals. The Guild negotiating team still believes that the AP proposals of massive health insurance increases coupled with nominal raises are unacceptable.
The Guild is still seeking economic differentials for Miami and Seattle, as well as a weekend differential for work on Saturdays.
There have been no discussions to decrease or substantially change severance. However, this article remains open because some employees could qualify for more severance pay under the job security proposal, and the Guild team expects to resolve this alongside job security.
The AP still wants to limit the amount of overtime it pays to employees working international sporting events. The company has modified its proposal to remove military maneuvers. It has also proposed limiting overtime only for travel time to and from the United States to the sporting event. Overtime would still be paid once employees arrive in the country to cover the events.
AP wants to pay employees lump sums for moving expenses rather than reimbursing for actual expenses incurred during a move.
The company’s revised proposal calls for: a $5,000 lump sum, an additional $5,000 if the sale of a primary residence is required, an additional $2,000 for the relocation of a child or children and an additional $2,000 for the relocation of a spouse, or a maximum of $14,000.
The Guild has told AP that those amounts are too low and some employees would lose money under the proposal.
Bargaining will resume July 18. The Guild bargaining team would to remind colleagues that more members give negotiators a stronger voice and more leverage at the table. A sign-up card can be printed out here.
Presidents representing locals within the Communications Workers of America gathered in Washington this week ahead of an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision that could drastically change how union fees are collected in public-sector unions.
President Jill Bleed attended the one-day meeting to represent the News Media Guild.
CWA President Chris Shelton told the nearly 300 delegates at the CWA presidents’ meeting that unions must look beyond members’ individual needs to the broader issue of keeping unions alive. CWA has made an effort to sign up new members as part of an initiative called CWA Strong in anticipation of the Janus court decision, which deals with whether a non-member in a public sector union must pay agency fees.
CWA represents hundreds of thousands of public- and private-sector workers in the media, telecommunications, airline, information technology and other industries. Shelton says that the union has added more than 7,300 new members in the public-sector unit as part of CWA Strong since 2016.
In New Jersey, public-sector locals are at record membership levels, while membership in right-to-work states is stable or growing, Shelton said.
If the high court rules against the unions, CWA is expected to lose revenue from about 25,000 agency fee payers _ or about $6.5 million, according to CWA Secretary/Treasurer Sara Steffens. The union has committed to cutting its budget (excluding staff and salaries) but Steffens said a longer-term fix is needed.
“We can’t cut our way out of this problem,” she said.
To stay viable, the union must have strong stewards, active and well-run locals, and keep in contact with current and future members, Steffens said.
The News Media Guild, funded in part by a CWA grant, has added 40 new members in the past year under the CWA Strong initiative.