EFE, Guild Near Agreement on Medical Rates

WASHINGTON — The News Media Guild and the EFE news service neared agreement Wednesday on freezing medical rates for 2011, as talks shifted to economic issues.  The union and the company also tentatively agreed on an extension of professional training benefits through 2011. 

In other areas of insurance coverage, the Guild requested information about the current life insurance benefit, which is part of the existing Short-Term Disability plan. The current death benefit is $25,000, with a $50,000 accidental death and dismemberment benefit. The union is seeking improvements in the coverage, and also wants to know what kind of exclusions apply — particularly for hazardous assignments, such as wars, riots, and natural disasters.

The union also repeated its call for EFE to improve the 401(k) contribution, which is far below industry standards. It noted that EFE is paying much more for retirement benefits for its Spanish-union covered staff. EFE said it was looking at ways to address the retirement plan, but was not in a position to make a proposal.

“When will EFE come to terms with the reality that our 401(k) plan is very meager,” asked Winston Rodríguez, a member of the negotiating team. “As it stands now, people will have to work way beyond their 65th year in order to maintain a decent standard of living.”

Talks are tentatively set to resume May 4-5 in Miami.

Representing the Guild were Rodríguez, NMG President Tony Winton, and unit chair Jorge Bañales.

Representing EFE were María Luisa Azpiazu, EFE vice president, and attorney Rudy Gómez.