The News Media Guild and the Associated Press tentatively agreed Tuesday to new contract language that provides better job security for single-person correspondents, improved recall rights for laid-off employees and eliminates what the union viewed as a “double probationary” period for staffers being trained for new positions. It also establishes a new “diversity and inclusion” committee.
The tentative agreement in the editorial unit, combined with an earlier agreement with AP clarifying the use of stringers, came as talks continued with the assistance of a federal mediator.
“This is an important step forward in talks with AP,” said Martha Waggoner, the chair of the negotiating committee. “While many very difficult issues remain, we remain hopeful momentum will build toward a fair agreement,” she said.
The AP wanted to know if the Guild had changed its position on wages, pensions, and health insurance. The Guild said it had no proposed changes on health insurance and wages, adding that the economic package is fluid and that the outcome of pension discussions will affect the entire bargaining. The union told AP the company would have to wait until Wednesday, when CWA National President Larry Cohen and the Guild’s actuaries will join the bargaining team.
The new job security language also requires the AP to provide the Guild with a copy of the evaluation of any union-covered employee that has an overall rating of below “meets expectations.” In addition, the AP will provide the Guild with copies of written warnings that threaten a Guild-covered staffing with discipline.
The new language says that if the AP eliminates a single-person correspondency, an employee may be offered any vacant position. The correspondent can accept the offer with full transfer expenses paid, or reject the offer. If the offer is rejected, additional severance pay would apply if the correspondent surrenders all further recall/rehire rights in writing. The enhanced severance would be:
- four weeks of pay for less than five years of service
- eight weeks of pay for at least five years of service but fewer than 10 years
- 10 weeks of pay for at least 10 years of service but fewer than 15 years
- 12 weeks of pay for 15 or more years of service.
The AP also agreed to give laid-off employees preference to jobs outside their business location, according to seniority, for 18 months. For example, the language would mean that if a photographer is laid off in one bureau, he/she will receive preference for photographers’ openings in other AP locations if they apply. Previously, that person only had preferential rights in the same location where he or she previously worked.
The new language also addresses a problem in which AP sometimes sought to put staffers on a “training period” even though they had been “deemed qualified” for a new position. The Guild believed this resulted in a “double probation” for qualified staffers.
The AP also agreed to set up a joint committee on diversity and inclusion that includes no more than three NMG members, appointed by the Guild, and no more than three from the AP. The committee will meet during regular work hours at the AP’s expense at the request of either the AP or the Guild. Members may participate by telephone or videoconference, and guests may be invited.
Representing the Guild were: Waggoner, NMG President Tony Winton, and negotiating committee members John Braunreiter, Don Ryan and Vin Cherwoo.
Representing the AP were: Michelle Ehrlich, Sue Gilkey, Hilda Auguste, Alison Quan and attorney Steve Macri.
Also present was Kathy Murray-Cannon, a federal mediator who joined the talks Monday.