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.