EFE Proposes Another Wage Freeze

WASHINGTON — The EFE News Service on Tuesday proposed an additional year of a wage freeze for its U.S. workers, saying that economic conditions remain difficult for the Madrid-based news agency.

Workers at EFE have already had wages frozen since 2008. The Guild had proposed a five percent wage increase to make up for lost ground, and to also close the gap between wages paid to “Spanish union” workers in the U.S. who perform the same work but are paid much more.

“We keep giving more to EFE, with new multimedia and video products and longer and longer hours, but EFE isn’t responding in kind,” said Jorge Bañales, the Guild’s unit chair. “If EFE wants quality journalism in the Spanish language, it needs to appreciate its staff,” he said.

In addition to rejecting wage increases, EFE rejected any improvement in the 401(k) plan, which currently features a 1.5% employer contribution. The Guild told EFE that its retirement plan is woefully behind industry standards.

EFE also rejected shift differentials for employees working night shifts and weekends, although it makes the payments to Spanish union employees. It also rejected switching the current payroll to biweekly payments instead of monthly. EFE also rejected a proposed increase in life insurance.

EFE said it would continue the current medical plan payments for staff. Health premiums will not increase in 2011.

The Guild proposed extending the company’s current training program for another year. EFE said it would respond at a later date.

Talks are expected to resume in February in Miami.

Representing the Guild were Bañales, Teresa Bouza and Winston Rodriguez, and NMG President Tony Winton.

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