Guild proposes improved tech contract

The News Media Guild on Tuesday proposed changes to the contract for technicians at The Associated Press, including the same 6 percent annual pay raise sought for editorial unit employees and more certifications for which the techs could earn more money.

The Associated Press wants to be able to hire senior technicians from outside the company if no qualified employees are in the bargaining unit. It also wants to create a senior master control operators who would be paid an additional $110 a week, affecting one or two employees now classified as newspersons.

 NMG bargaining committee member John Braunreiter, a technician from Milwaukee, Wis., told the AP that many techs have gotten all the certifications approved by AP. They would like the company to approve other certs geared for desktop support work for which techs would get additional money.

 The AP also wants to terminate the union security clause for technicians, which requires the payment of dues or a fair-share agency fee as a condition of employment. AP says the issue is about freedom of choice; the Guild says the proposal is designed to weaken the union.

 “The company has lived with the union security clause for decades. Now it wants to dump it while also proposing to freeze pensions and weaken the health insurance program,” Braunreiter said. “AP’s planned health care increases would mean techs would pay up to 150 percent more. Our union will press for more training, improved job security, improved pensions and health insurance that will strengthen AP and make it a desirable place to work and help draw new, talented employees.”

 Guild administrator Kevin Keane said the editorial unit contract should include a union security clause. “All employees benefit from the representational efforts of the union and the contracts it negotiates,” he said.

 The two sides agreed to meet again Thursday, when they’ll discuss the AP’s plans to train employees. They also agreed to meet Nov. 16 in Washington, where they’ll discuss job security, along with issues of special interest to staffers there.

 Representing the NMG at the table were: Martha Waggoner, chair of the rank-and-file bargaining committee; committee members Don Ryan and Vin Cherwoo; and chief negotiator Kevin Keane.

 Representing the AP were: Michelle Ehrlich, director of global labor relations; Kristin Gazlay, vice president and managing editor, business news and global training; Merrie Singer, human resources director, technology; Alison Quan of human resources; and attorney Steve Macri.