WASHINGTON – The News Media Guild advanced an 8 percent restorative wage increase to make up for two years of painful wage cuts as it made its initial economic proposals to the EFE News Service on Thursday.
The employer sought a wage freeze.
The Guild’s proposal for each year of a proposed three-year agreement also included a measure to establish “wage parity” for employees in the news service’s Miami bureau. Workers there earn about 23 percent less than their colleagues in New York, California and Washington, even though the cost of living has increased in that city.
The wage proposals came after the end, in January, of an austerity program that saw wages decline 4.6 percent, as well as increased employee costs for health insurance.
The union also advanced proposals to improve diversity in the workforce, such as requiring that notices of vacant positions be sent to professional associations representing Asian, Hispanic, black, and female journalists. In addition, the union sought provisions to protect employees working under special immigration provisions covering international journalists.
“If the company wants to compete in a diverse country like the U.S.A, it needs to be diverse itself,” said Jairo Mejía, a reporter in the Washington bureau.
The employer rejected the Guild´s advancement opportunities proposal, and on wages said it wanted to abolish wage scales and keep wages frozen at current levels for three years. It said it also wanted to make employees pay a greater share of health insurance – as much as 33 percent — than is currently paid by staffers.
In other areas of the contract, the union and the company initialed tentative agreements renewing current language of the preamble and Article 16, Hours, Overtime, and Work Schedules. The company said it would accept Guild proposals to improve provisions covering some leaves of absence.
The parties will set future bargaining dates at a later time. The agreement expires June 30.
EFE, based in Madrid, is the world´s largest Spanish-language news agency. The Guild represents U.S. editorial and administrative staff.
The Guild was represented by EFE unit chair Jorge Bañales, Mejía, Miami editor David Ronk and NMG negotiator Tony Winton. EFE was represented by Laureano García, vice president of EFE News Services, Washington Bureau Chief Hernán Martín, and attorney Arturo Ross.