EFE Proposes Cuts to 401k plan, Limits To Parental Leave

Bargaining Bulletin No. 5

WASHINGTON — The EFE News Service added more demands to its list of concessions on Wednesday, six months after bargaining began for a new labor agreement.

EFE proposed reducing the current 401(k) employer contribution from the current 2% to 1.5% of salary, a move that would reverse an increase negotiated last summer. While contained in the company´s written proposals submitted earlier, EFE had told the Guild that it was proposing ¨current language.¨ EFE confirmed on Wednesday that its earlier written proposals were not, in fact ¨current language¨and represented a proposal to reduce benefits.

The company said it could revisit its 401(k) proposal depending on the overall economic terms of the contract.

The company also attempted to clarify language changes to Parental and Family leaves in the contract, with the apparent intent of reducing the total amount of paid time a woman could receive after giving birth to a child. 

The two newest proposals follow EFE’s demand for a 15% reduction in medical expenses and a 5% wage cut for some employees. EFE´s wage cut proposal would apply to employees whose wages are over scale (often as the result of merit increases).  EFE said it would save $30,132 annually under its wage cut proposal.

Regarding leaves for mothers and fathers, the current contract provides both men and women, as well as adoptive parents, one paid week of “Parental Leave” and up to six months of unpaid leave. In addition, for childbirth, it recognizes six weeks of presumptive medical disability that is paid through the employer’s short term disability plan. EFE´s proposal contains the new sentence (twice) that reads: “under no circumstances shall an employee be entitled to both Parental Leave and Medical Leave for the same occurrence or condition.”

When asked to explain the effect of this sentence and the other changes, the company’s chief negotiator responded this way:

GUILD QUESTION: “What you’re saying is that you object to new mothers getting 1 paid week of parental leave and six weeks of disability?”
EFE: I think Jorge nailed it.

Later, the company denied it was trying to reduce the benefit for new mothers. The Guild noted that the current contract language was carefully crafted to satisfy U.S. law and was approved directly by then-EFE director of Human Resources Pedro Farré in 2006. Farré told the Guild then that EFE would not treat female employees differently in the United States than it did in Spain. In Spain, despite recent cuts, new mothers get six months of paid leave. In Wednesday’s session, EFE did not explain its reasoning for the change other than to say it was a “cost issue.” The Guild is seeking information on the cost savings of EFE’s proposal.

“It’s 2012 and we shouldn’t be moving backwards in terms of women’s rights,” said Winston Rodríguez, a member of the Guild’s negotiating committee.

“While we all understand the economic constraints of the times, that doesn’t justify an assault on families,” added Jorge Bañales, the EFE unit chair.

Representing the Guild were Bañales, Rodríguez, and negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE were José Manuel Sanz, EFE News Services Vice President, and attorney Rudy Gómez.

Future bargaining dates are being scheduled.