Federal mediator called in to NMG-AP talks

The Associated Press told the News Media Guild on Friday that it has asked a federal mediator to be present at all future bargaining sessions as the two sides try to settle a contract that expired almost three months ago.

The AP said the mediator would be present when bargaining resumes Feb. 28.

“The move is not unexpected, and mediators have assisted in our bargaining before” said NMG President Tony Winton. “We look forward to working with a mediator and hope she can bridge the wide gap that still exists between the company and the Guild on many issues, including the pension and other major economic subjects.”

The contract expired Nov. 30, 2010, and the two sides have been bargaining since mid-October. The most contentious is the pension, which the AP wants to freeze and replace with a defined contribution plan that the company agrees is far less valuable to employees than the current pension.

The Guild has offered an alternative – a fixed cost pension that the union believes addresses most of AP’s concerns about volatility and cost. AP has said that the proposal doesn’t go far enough in fixing the problems.

Also Friday, the AP said it was looking into alternatives to the defined contribution that it first proposed, hoping to address some of the Guild’s concern. The company did not make a formal proposal.

In addition to Winton, representing the Guild were: Martha Waggoner, John Braunreiter, Don Ryan and Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Michelle Ehrlich, Sue Gilkey, Carole Feldman, Hilda Auguste, Alison Quan and attorney Steve Macri.