Guild questions AP on proposal to kick working spouses off health insurance

While The Associated Press has said that it would save $270,000 annually by forcing working spouses and domestic partners off health insurance, company bargainers said they had done no analysis of the proposal’s effect on the staffers and their families.

News Media Guild bargainers pressed the company Tuesday for details on why it wants to force working spouses and domestic partners off the AP insurance and onto the insurance provided by their companies, which the Guild believes will be inferior and more expensive in some cases.

“We don’t employ the spouses,” the AP said. “The spouses are not our employees.”

AP’s health-care consultant, Mercer, has said that just 7 percent of large employers refuse to provide insurance to working spouses and domestic partners.

“The AP has said it wants happy employees who are fairly compensated,” bargainer Don Ryan said. “This proposal does neither for employees hurt by it because they’ll worry about their spouse’s insurance, and they’ll likely suffer financially on top of the health benefit cuts and monthly contribution increases it wants employees to pay.”

The company and the Guild also discussed the AP’s proposal for news associates, a new dead-end position with no scheduling rights. The news associates would do the work of news people, editorial assistants and photo editors for two years, during which they receive no raises. At the end of their term, they would get the amount of money they would have accumulated in raises during the prior year. They cannot apply for other AP jobs during their two years.

The union said the new position would threaten the jobs of current Guild-covered staffers because they could perform all their job function for less money. The Guild added that they could be sent home after an hour of work and be summoned back later in the day to deny regular staff overtime opportunities. The company could then send them home and call them back again because they would not be covered by any scheduling rules or terms requiring consecutive hours of work.

AP bargainers said they listened to Guild bargainers’ complaints last summer about the amount and kind of work staffers are doing and responded with the news associates proposal. It’s meant to be helpful, not destructive, they said.

Bargaining continues Wednesday.