Guild, AP reach 3-year tentative agreement

After 15 months of bargaining, the News Media Guild and The Associated Press have reached a tentative agreement that includes pay raises, lump sum payments, higher health insurance costs and greater protections for news associates than the company originally proposed.

Pay raises of 2 percent, 1.75 percent and 1.5 percent, with lump sum payments of $500, $300 and $300 are included in the agreement. The raises are effective on Sept. 25, 2014; Nov. 15, 2015; and Jan.1, 2017, respectively, with the lump sums payable on March 1, 2015; June 1, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2017.

The AP rejected key Guild proposals, including modified Guild shop and clarification of independent contractor language. We pushed forced transfers off the table, along with an AP proposal to halve dismissal pay for 10 years for new hires. The company held fast to its proposal to kick working spouses and domestic partners off health insurance, although that doesn’t take effect until 2017.

“The bargainers know that all your mobilizing actions last week helped push some of the worst proposals off the table,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “It’s not the contract we had hoped to get when negotiations began; however, the bargainers believe it’s the best we can get at the table. It’s up to members to decide whether they will support it.”

For health insurance details, click here

The plan designs for health insurance are big, including co-insurance for Guild-covered staffers for the first time and out-of-pocket maximums. Health insurance premiums, which had been static for six years, increase about 10 percent in 2015, 11 percent in 2016 and 10.8 percent in 2017, which our health consultant says is about on market trend.

Those increases are for the premium plan; increases for the basic plan are about 8 percent each year. The one exception is for the family plan for employees whose spouses cannot stay on AP health insurance. Their premiums will drop in 2017 over 2016, an improvement the Guild sought to offset the cost of buying another premium for their working spouse or domestic partner.

The Guild’s proposal takes effect in 2015; the AP modified proposal in 2016; and the AP proposal without coverage for working spouses takes effect in 2017. AP originally proposed a plan that shifted almost $12 million in costs to staff; eliminated the premium plan that covers about 95 percent of Guild-covered staff; and included a high-deductible plan. The plan that goes into effect by 2017 shifts about $5.7 million in costs to staff; includes the premium and basic plans; and does not include a high-deductible plan.

Guild bargainers understand that McClatchy newspapers, where AP CEO Gary Pruitt previously worked, pushed working spouses off its health insurance. “This should give Guild members an idea of the level of support this proposal had,” said bargainer John Braunreiter, the Guild’s secretary-treasurer.

The Guild will provide details on the ratification vote shortly. The new contract would expire Sept. 30, 2017.

The tentative agreement includes news associates but with many more protections than the AP originally proposed. It also maintains the current expense policy, with the requirement that staffers report actual mileage for tax purposes.

Because the company didn’t agree to clarification of independent contractor language, the Guild intends to take the grievance about Invision, the AP’s new entertainment photography business, to arbitration.

Bargaining began in July 2013. During the 15 months, rank-and-file Guild bargainers included Waggoner and Braunreiter; photographer Don Ryan, a Guild vice president; senior technicians Pat Turley and Mike Mazzo, a Guild vice president; and medical/science editor Stephanie Nano. The Guild’s first vice president, Linda Johnson, worked as mobilizer. Guild administrator Kevin Keane was the chief negotiator.

We will provide links to specific language, especially health insurance, later Thursday.