Bulletin 1: Guild, AP start talks

NEW YORK, Oct. 20 – Job security topped the list of concerns at the start of bargaining with The Associated Press today as the union advanced its opening proposals on the first day of contract talks.

The Guild raised several job security concerns, including the use of stringers in place of staff, unfair staffer evaluations, and improved job security for employees in smaller offices.

“Our members are dismayed by AP’s new approach toward staff evaluations,” said NMG President Tony Winton in the Guild’s opening statement. “The lack of honesty in evaluations is rendering them useless at best, and confrontational at worst.”

In job security, the Guild said the AP failed to fully avail itself of the voluntary buyout language added in the last round of bargaining, causing needless disruption —  because lower-seniority staffers could have had their jobs saved if volunteers had been sought first. The union also noted its concern about reports that some technology work might be subcontracted out.

In its economic proposals, the Guild asked for a 6 percent wage increase in each year of a three-year agreement, retirement and benefit plan improvements, and more paid time off. The union noted that employee productivity has increased, saying that speed-up and workload issues are becoming more acute.

The AP, in its opening statement, noted continuing financial pressures in the news industry. It said it was looking at $75 million in pension plan contributions over the next three years. AP said it would talk more about pensions when the company outlines its opening proposals next week.

The Guild was represented by Winton; negotiating committee members Martha Waggoner, John Braunreiter, and Don Ryan; and NMG Administrator Kevin Keane.

AP was represented by Michelle Ehrlich, director of global labor relations, Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; Carole Feldman, director of newsroom convergence; human resource staffers Alison Quan and Hilda Auguste, and attorney Stephen Macri.