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BARGAINING: Guild advances counter-proposals on wages, health care

The News Media Guild on Wednesday introduced a revised wages proposal that calls for four consecutive annual raises, beginning in 2018 through 2021.

The Guild bargaining committee told The Associated Press that its members must have a contract that leaves them better off economically, not worse. The AP said it intends to introduce its own revised wages proposal Thursday.

The Guild counter-proposal calls for a 4 percent salary increase upon ratification of the contract with the raise retroactive to the date of the agreement. The proposal also calls for 3.5 percent increases on June 1, 2019; June 1, 2020; and June 1, 2021.

The union’s health insurance counter-proposal calls for no increase in health and dental premiums in 2018, followed by annual 8 percent premium increases in 2019, in 2020 and 2021. It also includes changes previously proposed in an earlier Guild counter-proposal:

  • Increase the individual deductible to $500 from $400 and the family deductible to $1,000 from $800.
  • Increase out-of-pocket maximum for in-network service from $1,900 to $2,400 for individuals and $3,800 to $4,800 for families for in-network services.
  • Eliminate the coverage of compounded prescription drugs and to move the prescription drug coverage to a national preferred formulary.

Also Wednesday, the AP gave the Guild an updated proposal on which positions should be excluded from Guild coverage. The Guild team is reviewing the proposal.

Bargaining will resume 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 Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; David Scott, deputy managing editor; and attorney Steve Macri.

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

Guild, EFE, Discuss Medical Plan Changes

MIAMI — The News Media Guild and EFE News Services discussed cost-saving options for the medical plan covering U.S. workers as talks resumed Tuesday.

The Madrid-based EFE is seeking a 15% reduction in its overall health care costs, but did not specify how the savings were to be achieved. In response, the Guild sought information from the UFW-CWA plan, the current insurer, for lower cost options. The Guild introduced the UFW-CWA insurance to EFE when workers organized in 2005, resulting in cost savings for the employer and improved benefits for employees.

The various options from the UFW-CWA would further reduce EFE’s costs from three to 10%, but would also increase deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of prescription drugs for employees. The current 0% payment for generic medications would remain in place under all options, and optical and dental benefits would also remain as-is under the options available from the UFW-CWA. Continue reading

Job Security Agreement with AP

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. Continue reading

AP Seeks Pension, Medical Concessions

NEW YORK — The Associated Press has proposed freezing the pension plans for editorial and technology staffers covered by the News Media Guild contract, bringing swift reactions from those employees.

The proposal came Tuesday, the second day of bargaining between the NMG and the AP. The contract expires Nov. 30.  The AP also proposed steep increases in health insurance. Continue reading