Guild and AP begin negotiations for a new contract

As negotiating for a new contract began Monday, the News Media Guild bargainers proposed a three-year agreement with annual 6 percent raises, along with provisions to improve job security, retirement and health benefits and protect against work speedups.

“Guild-covered employees were pleased to hear CEO Gary Pruitt say at his town halls that the Associated Press is doing well financially, and we’re glad the company is on solid ground,” said Martha Waggoner, chair of the bargaining committee, in her opening remarks.

NMG negotiators Pat Turley (foreground) and Don Ryan at work after first day of bargaining, July 22, 2013.

NMG negotiators Pat Turley (foreground) and Don Ryan at work after first day of bargaining, July 22, 2013.

The employees want to share in that financial picture, with higher pay and better benefits, she said.

Among the other provisions of the Guild’s proposal are: changing “wholly owned” to “majority owned” so that contract covers staffers working at companies such as Invision; a review of what “business location” means so that the increasing numbers of people working from home are assured that their seniority remains intact; and a prohibition against using evaluations and Performance Improvement Plans as discipline.

The Guild also proposed new language that no speedups or unreasonable duties are allowed. When the workforce is below normal, sufficient additional employees would be hired to prevent an increase in the workload, the Guild’s proposal states.

“Many staffers have more empty desks around them than they do colleagues,” Waggoner said. “…Staffers say they’re told to pick up stories merely to meet a goal, and some are told to remove their byline and shorten their story so that it fills a different mark. “

She also told the company negotiators that staffers are alarmed by the number of their colleagues who have left and not been replaced “because it’s our goal that AP be a company that retains and attracts the best.”

On health insurance, the Guild’s proposal includes that the employee pay 5 percent of the premium and extend coverage to all retirees leaving on or after Sept. 1, 2013. The Guild proposal on retirement includes a company match on the 401(k) plan.

Jessica Bruce, the AP’s vice president for human resources, said the company would have critical changes to address in the coming weeks.

Most of the proposals discussed Monday affect both the editorial and technology units. The bargaining teams will discuss proposals specific to the technology unit Tuesday.

In addition to Waggoner, those on the Guild bargaining team are: Kevin Keane, chief negotiator; photographer Don Ryan of Portland, Ore.; and Pat Turley, a technician based in Chicago.

Representing the company, in addition to  Bruce, were: attorney Steve Macri; Jean Maye, Sue Gilkey, Hilda Auguste, Alison Quan and Keisa Caesar of Human Resources; Sue Gilkey of benefits; Washington Chief of Bureau Sally Buzbee; Director of Photography Santiago Lyon; and vice president Ellen Fegan of finance.