The Associated Press revised its proposal to create a new position of news associate, addressing many of the concerns raised by News Media Guild bargainers.
The Guild and the company also signed off Wednesday on an expense policy that maintains current language while requiring staffers who receive a minimum mileage rate to file their actual miles driven and pay income tax on any overages as required by law.
The AP has said it intended the news associate proposal as a positive one so the Guild sought more details about how the position would help the union-covered staff.
“The AP says it must have a way to deal with member needs for low-level news work and that it views the news associate proposal as responsive to Guild complaints about the workload,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “We agree that the staff has too much work in too little time so we’re pleased the AP is working to answer our concerns.” Continue reading
In a letter delivered Tuesday, more than 75 photographers and video journalists told the Associated Press they wouldn’t use their cars for work if the company insists on a change to expenses that would cost some staffers thousands of dollars.
“Many of us look at the proposal, shaking our heads and wondering just how and why we are expected to supply what, in effect, is a fleet of lease cars out of our own pockets,” the letter reads. “The only alternatives for many will be to use rental cars, taxis and public transportation.”
Bargainers for the News Media Guild gave the letter, accompanied by 12 photos of the equipment that photographers and VJs cram into their cars, during bargaining.
Photographers and VJs now receive a $103.25 weekly car allowance. AP wants to cut that to a weekly, taxable stipend of $33. The company wants them to sign affidavits that they’ll make their personal vehicle available for business any time the company wishes for at least a year.
For other staffers, AP wants to eliminate the $15 daily minimum and instead pay the IRS business mileage rate, which is 56 cents for 2014.
The letter says photographers and VJs use their cars as rolling offices “that we are expected to make available 24-7. The company expects us to jump in the car and race to spot news and other assignments, often times with a reporter in tow.”
If the AP’s proposal becomes part of the contract and photographers and VJs don’t use their own cars, then they would have to leave camera gear in their bureaus and go there to pick it up when news breaks. “This is unacceptable but unavoidable if we are saddled with extra personal vehicle costs,” the letter says.
Also Tuesday, the Guild and AP were meeting off-the-record as part of an attempt to reach terms on an overall contract.
NEW YORK — The Associated Press told the News Media Guild on Monday that its main objections to the union’s fixed-cost pension proposal are costs and what the company called the “cumbersome” administrative burdens of the plan.
The company said that plan is too cumbersome because its actuaries believe the Internal Revenue Service would have to qualify the plan every year and that the company would have to send annual updates about changes.
The Guild’s actuaries have said the burdens are minimal, because the yearly letter could be a form letter that’s easily updated. The Guild’s proposal saves the AP $5 million over five years, but the company has said that’s not enough.