Tag Archives: EFE

Update button on keyboard

EFE: No qualified U.S. candidates for news internships

The EFE News Service says it wants to scrap a program that allows U.S. college students to qualify for journalism internships because a three-year experiment failed to garner quality U.S. candidates. Instead, the Madrid-based news agency wants to offer its coveted U.S. internships exclusively to students enrolled at educational institutions in Spain. The Guild said it would continue to press for educational diversity in the program, because it’s often a pathway to full-time employment at EFE.

“We think a news organization operating in the U.S. should try to attract at least some U.S. citizens as journalists, and that starts with having an intern program recruiting from colleges in both America and Spain,” said Jorge Bañales, the bargaining unit chair.

After two initial sessions in June, the third bargaining meeting in Miami was the first to yield written tentative agreements. Some 18 articles were initialed during Monday’s session (full list below).

Among the unresolved issues is an employer proposal that could greatly increase the caseload of grievances, even for minor matters if they affect more than one employee at a time. If there were an office-wide safety issue that affected 20 people, for example, EFE’s language would require the filing of 20 separate grievances, with 20 separate grievance meetings, and 20 separate arbitrations. Since a first contract in 2006, no EFE grievance has ever gone to arbitration and all cases have been successfully resolved, including “class action” grievances.

Also on Monday, the Guild rejected EFE’s initial wage offer. EFE’s plan would abolish the current wage structure and replace it with a wage “pool” that it alone would control. EFE’s plan would mean that workers could have their incomes abruptly cut without cause or even explanation.  The Guild said it would advance a wage counterproposal in due time.

The union and the company initialed the following tentative agreements: Checkoff, Guild Security, Payroll Information, Probationary Period, Non-Discrimination, Seniority, Individual Bargaining, Hours, Overtime, and Work Schedules, Part-Time and Temporary Employees, Holidays, Vacations, Military Service, Sick Leave, Outside Work, Bulletin Boards, Miscellaneous, Indemnification Clause for EFE News Service, and a new article, Employee Integrity (which confirms an employee’s right to withhold a byline).
The parties had scheduled a meeting for Oct. 24th but EFE said it was not available for discussions. The parties said they would contact each other about setting a new bargaining date.

Representing the Guild were Washington journalists Bañales and Alfonso Fernandez, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE were Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.

Guild Seeks Wage Restoration In Bargaining with EFE News

MIAMI – Seeking to recover from years of painful wage reductions, Guild journalists at the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency started bargaining Tuesday for a new labor agreement. Both sides signaled a preference for a speedy deal, and management indicated it would propose some wage increases.

Reporters, editors, and administrative workers voluntarily accepted reduced wages for several years to help EFE and its parent company weather tough economic times. Last year, the two sides agreed to extend the contract a year with a wage freeze. The Guild represents U.S. workers at the Madrid-based agency, the largest Spanish-language news agency in the world.

“The time has come to regain ground, address a growing pay gap and address some basic fairness issues,” said Jairo Mejia, a reporter in EFE’s Washington, D.C., bureau. He referred to wage rates covering the company’s Miami employees that fall far short of rapidly rising living costs in the South Florida metro area. The union said it hoped to advance its initial proposals on Thursday.

EFE said it planned to offer a contract that would include a wage increase of 7 percent for Miami staffers over the life of a four-year agreement. It said it planned to continue the current medical plan and its cost structure. It said it would discuss wages for staffers in California, New York, and Washington at a later date. EFE also said however, that it might propose deletion of provisions guaranteeing minimum wages that are an industry standard. In addition, EFE signaled it wanted changes to contract terms preventing unfair discrimination and changes to the existing intern program.

The Guild and the Company also discussed EFE’s business plans. EFE said it was intent on expanding video and multimedia work.

The next bargaining session is set for Thursday. The current contract expires June 30.

Representing the Guild: Washington journalists Jauro Mejía, Jorge Bañales, and Miriam Burgués, Miami editor David Ronk, and NMG chief negotiator Tony Winton.

Representing EFE: Laureano García, vice president, Hernán Martín, Washington bureau chief, Marisleidys Mavilio, Miami controller, and attorney Arturo Ross.


EFE staff marks 10 years as part of News Media Guild

It has been 10 years since EFE News Services’ employees voted to organize as a union, choosing News Media Guild as the unit’s representative. This 10th anniversary finds the EFE staff unit strong, with 85 percent of the represented employees as union members, and readying for negotiations toward a fourth collective bargaining agreement.

As in most cases, organizing was not easy. Back in 2005, almost half of the Spanish news agency workforce in the United States comprised journalists hired in Spain and protected by a collective agreement with Spanish unions.

Local hires didn’t have any contractual protection. They could be laid off without any reason and no severance payment at any time and there was no overtime compensation. The company was not offering any retirement plan since their Spanish-CBA employees were within the social security system of Spain.

The decision to organize happened after employees were unable to persuade EFE to set up a modest 401(k) plan. With more than half of the EFENS’ employees in Miami, workers made contact with NMG’s Tony Winton, who was then president, and the organizing effort got a boost.

After a group of employees formally asked for a vote on organizing the process led to a voting day in the Fall of 2005, requiring some logistics since there were voters in Miami, New York and Washington.

“I remember very well the process, so formal, so serious, with those booths and a curtain to secure secret voting,” said Maribel ElHamti, now office administrator in the Washington bureau. “I remember how the National Labor Relations Board official came here and set up the booths, and we had to designate officials to check each voter’s identity. I was surprised at how well organized it was, how formal and serious.”

Negotiations for a first collective bargaining agreement began late in 2005 and were completed in November 2006. But the unit paid a heavy price: without any warning and with contradicting promises in writing sent by EFE’s president, the company decided to close its Latin American Editorial Desk in Miami, laying off almost twenty local hires, and moving the operation to Bogotá, Colombia.

Acting quickly, the NMG negotiating team jumped to bargain a severance package for workers losing their jobs. In an exemplary show of union discipline, the negotiation team’s president Benito García and other Miami employees who knew they would be laid off continued supporting the negotiation and joined in voting for the first contract.

Teresa Bouza, now an EFENS reporter in San Francisco, highlighted from that first contract “the establishment of a 401(k), something so important for our retirement; the compensation for overtime, a normalization of weekend shifts, and the sabbatical year for professional development.

“An important component of the union work all these years has been Tony Winton and his passion for negotiation. He’s a star,” said Bouza who was part of the negotiating commiteee in 2009. “The art of bargaining includes surviving those long, very long, meetings with the employer’s representatives in which we gain little by little new benefits.”

Bouza said the bulletins and other messages e-mailed to all unit members explaining the bargaining process, alerting about changes, collecting information about grievances and responding to members’ questions were very helpful.

A heyday for NMG members at EFENS came in 2013, in the course of the longest negotiation so far when high-ranking EFE officers came to Washington, and Guild members donned red T-shirts with the text “WE are EFE” in all the company’s offices.

Pictures were quickly e-mailed and the company officers were aware of the disciplined support for the Union among the employees.

Since the vote to join a union, local staff turnover has been fewer than 10 of the workers who voted to organize a decade ago. New hires have joined the Guild keeping our tradition  of support and unity for collective representation.


EFE Proposal is “Take and Take”

MIAMI, May 1, 2013 – EFE News Services Inc. introduced a new set of economic proposals this week calling for large increases in employee out-of-pocket monthly health insurance payments and cutting its retirement contribution by 25 percent. The Guild also questioned the company’s proposal on non-discrimination language and a proposal for unlimited interns.

Wage and Benefit Cuts

The company is now insisting on steep increases in medical premiums – as much as 19% in 2013 and nearly 24% in 2014. The proposals given to the Guild are deeper than EFE’s prior proposal of a 15% reduction in medical premium costs.

That’s on top of proposals to cut staff salary by up to 9% of salary after five years of a wage freeze. Under EFE’s new proposal, the lowest paid employees would have wages frozen for two more years instead of a wage cut.

“Normally, contract negotiations are give and take,” said Tony Winton, the Guild’s chief negotiator. “With these proposals, EFE seems intent on pursuing a ‘take and take’ stance,” he said. Continue reading

EFE Introduces New Wage Cut Proposal

MIA reverse wider

EFE Guild members hold hands during mobilization in Miami Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, Mar. 14 – EFE News Services introduced a new wage cut proposal on Thursday that softened its earlier demand for payroll savings of 15 percent.

EFE proposed a tiered approach to wage reductions. Under its proposal, Employees earning in excess of $60,000 would see a nine percent reduction. Employees earning less than $60,000 but more than $45,000 would see a an eight percent wage cut. Employees earning $45,000 or less would see no wage reduction.

EFE General Manager Ignacio Sanz said the goal of the company’s proposal was to reduce costs by $124,000 annually. He described the news agency’s financial condition as critical and said that EFE, a state-owned company based in Madrid, was under orders from the Spanish government to meet the conditions of a solvency plan. Continue reading