Guild, AP discuss leaves

The News Media Guild discussed leaves of absence Friday, asking The Associated Press  to increase the paid time off for parental leave and the number of compassionate days off.

The Guild asked the company to increase parental leave to two weeks from one week, noting that 38 editorial unit and three technology unit employees used the benefit from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010. The union asked the company to increase the minimum number of compassionate leave days to five and that at least two additional days be provided to people who must travel out of state. The contract now provides for a minimum of three days of compassionate leave.

The union also asked AP to reduce the minimum amount of time required for an unpaid sabbatical leave to six months from the current nine months.

The Guild requested that one employee, designated by the Guild, be allowed to work half time while on company time to conduct union business at a desk located in AP’s New York office. Guild administrator Kevin Keane pointed out that similar language exists in other contracts.

The AP provided sick leave information to the union, showing that the average number of sick days taken by EU employees was 4.9 in 2008; 5 in 2009 and 1.5 from January 2010, to June 2010. For TU employees, the number was 6.5 days in 2008; 6.3 in 2009 and 1.9 from January 2010, to June 2010.

 In 2009, the company paid more than $1.5 million in sick leave claims in the EU.  The new sick leave policy took effect on Oct. 1, 2010. For the six months ended June 2010, the company has spent more than $466,000 on sick leave claims.

In the TU, the company paid more than $110,000 in sick leave claims in 2009. For the six months ended June 2010, the company has paid more than $38,000 in such claims.

The company is still to provide information on the number of employees who had unpaid days btween their sick leave and the start of short-term disability (aka the doughnut hole). The company also will tell the union how many employees exceeded their sick leave days.

The Guild and the AP will meet Tuesday in Washington to discuss job security and other issues. On Friday, the company and the Guild will discuss health care insurance with the union’s consultant at the table.

 The Guild said it also plans to discuss the ethics policy and the misclassification of some employees as managers.