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BARGAINING: Guild, AP reach overall tentative agreement

News Media Guild bargainers reached an overall tentative agreement for its contracts with The Associated Press on Thursday. The Guild bargaining team believes it would need intense mobilization or a possible strike to make any more progress at the table, and for that reason, the Guild negotiators are recommending that these contracts for the editorial and technology units be approved. The final decision will be up to members.

Guild and AP bargainers have met 52 times since August 2017. The last contract expired Sept. 30, 2017.

AP has offered its final proposals, which the Guild bargainers cannot change at the table.  The Guild will announce a referendum election soon.

Here are the details, which include a few changes in wages and moving expenses from yesterday’s bulletin:

  • A lump sum payment of $750 upon ratification; a 2 percent raise on July 1, 2019; a $250 lump sum on Jan. 1, 2020; a 1.75 percent raise on July 1, 2020; a $250 lump sum on Jan. 1, 2021; and a 1.75 percent raise on July 1, 2021.
  • Increases of 20 percent to the monthly premiums on the top-tier premium health plan. The increases would take effect July 1, 2019; Jan. 1, 2020; Jan. 1, 2021; and Jan. 1, 2022. Lower increases to the basic health plan and the addition of an optional high deductible health plan. Another open-enrollment period would occur before these increases take effect, and the high deductible plan would be available beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
  • The contract would have an effective date of Jan. 31, 2019, and expire on June 30, 2022.
  • No changes to the amount of vacation or holidays an employee receives.
  • Merges the editorial, administrative and technology pension plans into a single plan to save on administrative costs. This does not change any pension benefits or the plan design.
  • No changes to severance pay, except in the situation described below when severance would increase.
  • Adoption of new job security language that was previously discussed at great length. Adoption of new job security language for technicians that says seniority can be measured within the virtual work groups of Global Help Desk and Customer Support, rather than business locations. Increasing the amount of severance paid to a laid-off employee in the editorial unit who is the only person in his or her organizational unit at a bureau.
  • Quadrupling the amount of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers upon the birth or adoption of a child (from one week paid to four weeks paid.) This is in addition to the short-term disability benefit for women who give birth.
  • Changing contract language to allow employees to use sick days to care for ill children, spouses and parents. (Now, employees can only use sick days for themselves.) The language change also allows mothers and fathers to use sick days after the birth or adoption of a child, which could extend paid parental leaves by an additional two weeks.
  • Adding insurance coverage for a commonly prescribed treatment for autism called applied behavioral analysis therapy
  • Adopting a lump sum reimbursement system for moving expenses. An employee who is relocating would receive a $7,500 lump sum. If the employee is selling his or her primary home, another $5,000 payment would be made, along with an additional $2,000 if the employee has a spouse who is moving and another $2,000 if the employee has a child or children.
  • Extending flexible scheduling to employees on the news side who elect to do so. This does not apply to employees who work fixed shifts, like desk editors, breaking news staffers or supervisors.
  • Restricting overtime for employees on overseas sports events like the Olympics. This limitation applies only to travel days flying to and from the international location. On those days, an employee would receive eight hours of pay. Once on site, the employee would still receive OT for covering the events and for time spent traveling to and from sports venues.
  • No changes to the number and location of news associates allowed under the contract, but changing language to allow news associates to apply for AP jobs prior to the completion of their two-year assignments. Also allowing news associates to search for, permission and prepare for publication user-generated content; and rearranging stacks within AP’s mobile app. No original reporting, bylines or credits are permitted.

Full details of the tentative agreement will be provided to members ahead of the referendum.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Ed Morsett of Denver and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were deputy managing editor David Scott, attorney Steve Macri, and senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications Jessica Bruce. 

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BARGAINING: AP revises wage, health proposals

The Associated Press introduced revised health insurance and wages proposals for Guild-covered employees, but the offer still more than doubles monthly premiums by 2022 for employees on the top-tier health plan.

The AP’s modified wages offer calls for: an $800 lump sum payment within 30 days of the ratification of a new contract; a 2 percent increase on July 1, 2019; a 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2020; and a 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2021.

The AP’s insurance proposal includes smaller increases for employees on the lower-tier basic health insurance plan, and it also includes the introduction of an optional high deductible health plan. The AP said it wanted to offer lower-cost options for employees who do not want to pay the higher cost of the premium plan.

The AP also accepted the Guild’s proposal to add insurance coverage for a commonly prescribed treatment for autism called applied behavioral analysis therapy. It would add Full Case Management to behavioral health claim benefits.

CLICK HERE to read the company proposal.

Right now, about 90 percent of bargaining unit members with AP insurance are on the premium plan. Here are the key differences in the health insurance plans:

The premium plan, which would cost $880 a month for a family plan by 2022, would have an individual deductible of $500 and a family deductible of $1,000 for in-network care. The premium plan out of pocket maximum for in-network care is $2,400 for an individual and $4,800 for a family. Employees on the premium plan would pay a coinsurance of 20 percent once the deductible is met.

The basic plan, which would cost $526 a month for a family plan by 2022, would have an individual deductible of $900 and a family deductible of $1,800 for in-network care. The basic plan out of pocket maximum for in-network care is $3,400 for an individual and $6,800 for a family. Employees on the basic plan would pay a coinsurance of 25 percent once the deductible is met.

AP does not currently offer a high deductible health plan. The one proposed Thursday would have the following design:

  • Monthly premiums would range from $50 for an individual to $197 for a family plan in 2019.
  • An individual deductible of $1,350 and a family deductible of $2,700.
  • The employee would pay a coinsurance of 20 percent once the deductible is met.
  • An annual out-of-pocket maximum of $6,750 for an individual or $13,500 for a family.
  • The employee would pay 20 percent for ER visits, office visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs.
  • The AP proposal does not include a company contribution to a pre-tax health savings account.

The Guild’s bargaining team has not yet responded to the company on its offer. Bargaining will resume Jan. 30.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were David Scott, deputy managing editor; attorney Steve Macri; Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; and Alison Quan, director of human resources, technology and business operations.

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BARGAINING: Guild tells AP wages must go up after health increase, inflation

News Media Guild negotiators told The Associated Press on Tuesday that a break-even contract is a non-starter for their members, and that overall compensation must go up once salary, health insurance and inflation are factored in.

The Guild bargaining team presented more than 100 letters from members who stand to lose thousands of dollars under AP’s proposed insurance and salary offers, once projected cost-of-living increases are included.

The bargainers read one letter at the table from an award-winning employee who would lose nearly $5,000 over three years. He wrote: “My family was left in the rear view many, many times over my career, always done to benefit my AP family … I would hope The Associated Press would value my contribution to making it one of the most trusted news sources at a time when so many news sources are questioned.”

Another employee noted last month’s national jobs numbers, which found that average hourly pay for workers increased by 3.2 percent. AP has offered annual raises of 1.5 percent.

Yet another employee wrote to AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee: “I know you know how vital the newswomen and newsmen of The Associated Press are to keeping us one of the most valued and trusted news sources in the world. We can’t do that if the well-being of ourselves and our children are being jeopardized.”

The Guild bargaining team would like to thank all the employees who participated in this action along with data journalist Justin Myers, who created the calculator and answered countless questions from the bargaining team about it.

Because of scheduling conflicts, the bargaining teams will not meet Wednesday and will resume talks Thursday morning.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle and administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were David Scott, deputy managing editor; Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Alison Quan, director of human resources, technology and business operations; Ellen Fegan, vice president for internal audit; Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.

We keep AP working

BARGAINING: AP advances revised wage offer as package deal; Guild rejects

The Associated Press on Wednesday revised upward its wages proposal, but said the News Media Guild needed to accept its proposals to modify how moving expenses are paid as well as wholesale changes to the job security language.

On wages, the AP proposed: a 1.5 percent increase on the date of ratification; an $800 lump sum on Dec. 1, 2018; a 1.5 percent increase on Nov. 1, 2019; and a 1.5 percent increase on Dec. 1, 2020. The AP proposal would set an expiration date of Sept. 30, 2021, for the contract.

The proposal is a slight increase from the company’s most recent counter offer in May.

The Guild rejected the proposal.

AP Executive Editor Sally Buzbee joined negotiators at the table Wednesday. She praised the work of AP employees, particularly the recent coverage on immigration as well as Guild member Jon Lemire’s questioning of President Donald Trump in Helsinki.

“We’ve been so thrilled lately at the work that our U.S. staff is doing. The last couple of weeks have just been so inspiring in so many ways,” she said.

The Guild negotiators told AP management that it agrees the bargaining unit members are doing extraordinary work _ but that it is demoralizing and insulting to receive wage and insurance proposals that amount to a pay cut.

The Guild team also told AP that its health insurance proposal would likely drive out employees, especially those with family plans. Now, a family premium plan that covers an employee, spouse and children costs the employee $409 in health insurance premiums. AP wants that number to rise to $764 per month by 2021.

AP said its managers are paying 20 percent of the cost of health insurance so Guild-covered employees should do the same.

The AP responded that the media industry is still “disrupted” and that tough business decisions must be made to ensure the company’s long-term sustainability and success.

Also Wednesday, the company said it was unwilling to move on its previous proposal on moving expenses that would give employees a lump sum rather than reimbursement for the actual costs incurred. That lump sum payment would cap at $14,000, although some previous expenses ran well beyond that. It would set a $5,000 minimum.

The Guild has previously received details of moving expenses involving two dozen employees over the past few years. Seven people were reimbursed for moving expenses of $5,000 or less, while 17 people incurred more than $5,000 in moving expenses. Of that same group, nine people had expenses above the $14,000 maximum that would be allowed under AP’s proposal. The highest reported reimbursement for moving costs was more than $44,000.

On job security, the AP said it wants the Guild to accept its most recent proposal. The Guild has shown its willingness to create organizational units, but said senior employees must be able to exercise seniority rights in another organizational unit (in the same bureau) if he or she has past experience doing that work.

Bargaining resumes Thursday.

Representing the Guild were Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle, and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.

Representing the AP were: Sally Buzbee, executive editor; Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; Brian Carovillano, managing editor; and Steve Macri, AP’s attorney.