Category Archives: EFE Negotiations

Guild, EFE agree to four-year deal

Washington  nearly two years of negotiations, the News Media Guild and EFE News Service reached tentative agreement Tuesday on a new four-year labor agreement calling for a two percent retroactive general wage increase, a revised wage grid, protections for employees on journalism visas, and other gains. 

The contract now heads for approval by the Guild’s executive and contract committees, and then a vote of members.

If approved, the new new wages will come into effect on the first payday following ratification, with a retroactive lump-sum payment equal to 2% of pay for the previous calendar year.

EFENS and the Guild had reached the basic terms of a deal over a year ago, but after the union said it was ready to submit the contract to a membership vote, management sought new interpretations of important wage terms. A subsequent change in political leadership in Spain, where the government-funded news agency’s parent company is based, led to a situation where the Employer was unable to resume bargaining until a new management team was installed.

The tentative agreement reached Tuesday will contain a mechanism that will protect current employee’s over scale wages, including, for some workers, the award of additional experience credit time.  

Recognition of experience credit, a standard U.S. journalism practice, has been sought by the Guild since the unit organized in 2005. The agreement marks the first time that EFE will follow this principle. 

The agreement also creates new protections for workers from other nations who work in the U.S. under what is known as an “i-visa.” 

“It was a complicated and bumpy road, but finally we managed to reach a deal that it is meaningful and substantial for EFE NEWS and its employees in the next two years,” Alfonso Fernández, a reporter in Washington DC, said.

If approved by members, the contract would expire in June, 30, 2021.

Representing the Guild were employees Jorge Bañales, David Ronk, Maribel El Hamti, and Alfonso Fernandez; Tony Winton, chief negotiator, and Kevin Keane, the NMG administrator.

Representing the EFE News Service were Hernán Martín, Washington Bureau Chief, Manuel Ortega, EFE’s director of business development for North America, and attorney Arturo Ross.

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EFE: No qualified U.S. candidates for news internships

The EFE News Service says it wants to scrap a program that allows U.S. college students to qualify for journalism internships because a three-year experiment failed to garner quality U.S. candidates. Instead, the Madrid-based news agency wants to offer its coveted U.S. internships exclusively to students enrolled at educational institutions in Spain. The Guild said it would continue to press for educational diversity in the program, because it’s often a pathway to full-time employment at EFE.

“We think a news organization operating in the U.S. should try to attract at least some U.S. citizens as journalists, and that starts with having an intern program recruiting from colleges in both America and Spain,” said Jorge Bañales, the bargaining unit chair.

After two initial sessions in June, the third bargaining meeting in Miami was the first to yield written tentative agreements. Some 18 articles were initialed during Monday’s session (full list below).

Among the unresolved issues is an employer proposal that could greatly increase the caseload of grievances, even for minor matters if they affect more than one employee at a time. If there were an office-wide safety issue that affected 20 people, for example, EFE’s language would require the filing of 20 separate grievances, with 20 separate grievance meetings, and 20 separate arbitrations. Since a first contract in 2006, no EFE grievance has ever gone to arbitration and all cases have been successfully resolved, including “class action” grievances.

Also on Monday, the Guild rejected EFE’s initial wage offer. EFE’s plan would abolish the current wage structure and replace it with a wage “pool” that it alone would control. EFE’s plan would mean that workers could have their incomes abruptly cut without cause or even explanation.  The Guild said it would advance a wage counterproposal in due time.

The union and the company initialed the following tentative agreements: Checkoff, Guild Security, Payroll Information, Probationary Period, Non-Discrimination, Seniority, Individual Bargaining, Hours, Overtime, and Work Schedules, Part-Time and Temporary Employees, Holidays, Vacations, Military Service, Sick Leave, Outside Work, Bulletin Boards, Miscellaneous, Indemnification Clause for EFE News Service, and a new article, Employee Integrity (which confirms an employee’s right to withhold a byline).
The parties had scheduled a meeting for Oct. 24th but EFE said it was not available for discussions. The parties said they would contact each other about setting a new bargaining date.

Representing the Guild were Washington journalists Bañales and Alfonso Fernandez, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE were Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.

Guild Seeks Wage Restoration In Bargaining with EFE News

MIAMI – Seeking to recover from years of painful wage reductions, Guild journalists at the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency started bargaining Tuesday for a new labor agreement. Both sides signaled a preference for a speedy deal, and management indicated it would propose some wage increases.

Reporters, editors, and administrative workers voluntarily accepted reduced wages for several years to help EFE and its parent company weather tough economic times. Last year, the two sides agreed to extend the contract a year with a wage freeze. The Guild represents U.S. workers at the Madrid-based agency, the largest Spanish-language news agency in the world.

“The time has come to regain ground, address a growing pay gap and address some basic fairness issues,” said Jairo Mejia, a reporter in EFE’s Washington, D.C., bureau. He referred to wage rates covering the company’s Miami employees that fall far short of rapidly rising living costs in the South Florida metro area. The union said it hoped to advance its initial proposals on Thursday.

EFE said it planned to offer a contract that would include a wage increase of 7 percent for Miami staffers over the life of a four-year agreement. It said it planned to continue the current medical plan and its cost structure. It said it would discuss wages for staffers in California, New York, and Washington at a later date. EFE also said however, that it might propose deletion of provisions guaranteeing minimum wages that are an industry standard. In addition, EFE signaled it wanted changes to contract terms preventing unfair discrimination and changes to the existing intern program.

The Guild and the Company also discussed EFE’s business plans. EFE said it was intent on expanding video and multimedia work.

The next bargaining session is set for Thursday. The current contract expires June 30.

Representing the Guild: Washington journalists Jauro Mejía, Jorge Bañales, and Miriam Burgués, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE: Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.

EFE bargaining

Guild, EFE News trade wage proposals

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.

EFE bargaining

EFE bargaining opens; company seeks 20 ways to fire employees

Managers of EFE News Service proposed a  20 firing offenses for its U.S. employees during the second day of talks for a new labor agreement for the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency.

In making the proposal Friday for a new “discipline and discharge” article of the contract, EFE did not cite any specific instance in which it could not discipline an employee under the existing contract language. The current agreement already provides that employees can be disciplined or fired for “just cause,” an industry standard that covers a wide variety of situations.

Among the 20 firing offenses would be “dangerous horseplay” while on duty or merely possessing an unopened bottle of wine.  Additional terms would allow an employee to be fired for even the slightest breach of ethics without defining the term “ethics.”

The Guild, in 2006, embraced EFE’s global ethics policy, known as the Estatuto de la Redacción and members participated in its drafting, ratification and monitoring with their colleagues in Madrid and elsewhere.

The Guild told EFE it would study the proposal and consult with its members.

GENDER ID CLAUSE ACCEPTED DURING EFE BARGAINING

On a positive note, the Guild proposed – and EFE accepted – an improvement to the non-discrimination article of the contract. EFE agreed that it would add “gender identity” to the list of protected categories.

“This is an important advance that expands protection against discrimination and we are glad that a human right that exists in Spanish workplaces will be extended to EFE’s U.S. workforce,” said Jorge Bañales, the chair of the bargaining committee and a reporter in Washington.

In addition to that article, EFE and the Guild reached tentative agreements for five additional contract articles: checkoff, guild security, individual bargaining, part-time and temporary employees and separability. Through bargaining on Thursday and Friday, the tentative agreements have been reached on 10 articles.

EFE workers told managers when talks opened Thursday that they are hoping to make up for lost ground after a painful, two-year furlough that had the effect of reducing wages by more than 7 percent.

“We have done our part in helping the company get through a difficult time and keep it viable,” said Jorge Bañales, a Washington journalist and unit chair. Because the furlough came after a wage freeze, real earnings, adjusted for inflation are down more than 10 percent since 2008.

The Guild was represented by Bañales, Miami editor David Ronk, Washington reporter Jairo Mejía and NMG negotiator Tony Winton.

EFE was represented by Laureano García, vice president of EFE News Services, comptroller Marisleydis Mavilio, and attorney Arturo Ross.

The Guild represents both editorial and administrative employees in California, New York, Washington, and Florida. The current contract exipires June 30.

Discussions are tentatively set to resume June 15 and 16 in Washington, D.C.