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BARGAINING: AP advances revised wage offer as package deal; Guild rejects

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.