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BARGAINING: Guild proposes 5 percent annual raises

The News Media Guild advanced proposals Wednesday calling for 5 percent annual increases in wages and economic differentials in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Guild also proposed adding Miami and Seattle to the list of cities that receive economic differentials because of higher cost-of-living expenses.

The Guild also proposed adding a new differential payment for employees who work on Saturdays. Now, an employee can receive differentials for working Sundays and between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The Guild’s wages proposal also includes a new provision that calls on the company to adjust the pay increases upward in 2018 and 2019 if the Cost of Living Adjustment, as computed by the U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index, exceeds the pay increase agreed to in the contract.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press introduced a proposal that would greatly expand the company’s use of news associates. Now, the company is allowed a total of 16 news associates to be located at its four regional hubs. Under the proposal brought forth Wednesday, the AP would have no restrictions on the number or location of news associates and they would no longer be limited to two years of employment.

The company proposal would also allow news associates to do original reporting and have bylines, tag lines and credit lines, but they would always receive the Class A newsperson “to start” rate of pay when performing that work. The company is willing to negotiate their salary rate, which is now the Class A newsperson “to start” rate.

Under the current contract, news associates are only allowed to do member pickups, daybooks, editorial roundups, calendars and the transmission of member photo pickups

The AP also proposed eliminating existing contract language that now says “News associates shall not be used to enable the layoff of other employees or the elimination of positions covered by this Agreement, who are engaged in the State News report.”

The AP also introduced its proposal on vacation time. The company proposal would maintain the current levels of vacation eligibility but would require employees to schedule 14 days annually of any vacation or personal days that have been carried over from previous years. Now, employees must schedule seven days annually of any carried-over time.

The AP also indicated Wednesday that it planned to later introduce its own proposal on severance pay, but the company did not provide any details. The Guild has proposed leaving that section of the contract unchanged.

Also Wednesday, the Guild and the AP reached tentative agreements to leave the dues checkoff and outside work portions of the contract unchanged.

Representing the Guild at the table 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: Alison Quan, director of human resources, technology and business operations; Hilda Auguste, human resources manager; Keisa Caesar, human resources generalist and project manager; Sue Gilkey; global director of employee benefits; Jean Maye, human resources director; AP’s attorney Steve Macri and David Scott, deputy managing editor.

Guild negotiators will spend Thursday preparing for the next negotiations session, now set for the week of Sept 18.

Guild proposes 3 pay raises of 3 percent each

The News Media Guild proposed Wednesday three pay raises of 3 percent each for workers at The Associated Press, with the first to take effect on the date a tentative agreement is reached.

The next raise would be effective the same date in 2015, and the third, the same date in 2016. The contract would expire three years after a tentative agreement is reached, the Guild proposed. The AP has proposed increases of 2 percent, 1.75 percent and 1.5 percent with a ratification bonus of $500.

The Guild also proposed changes to health insurance to bring the Guild proposal and the company proposal closer. Among the changes the Guild proposed: a 10 percent increase in premiums in 2014; 10 percent in 2015; and 8 percent in 2016.

AP has proposed an average increase of 19 percent in 2014, with the actual amount depending on the tier.

The Guild also proposed specialist copays of $40. That would be an increase from the current $30 and less than the AP’s proposal of $45. Continue reading

AP rejects Guild proposals to improve retirement benefits

The News Media Guild proposed several improvements to the retirement benefits, all of which The Associated Press rejected.

Over two days of bargaining this week, the Guild proposed that defined contribution benefits be applied to all earnings, including overtime, as was the case with the 401(k) program. The AP said it wasn’t interested in improving the plan during a time when it’s already providing an enhancement, referring to the additional 2 percent or 1 percent company contribution that the AP is providing now, based on years of service.

Staffers with 10 years or more of service receive the 2 percent enhancement while those with up to 10 years receive 1 percent. That enhancement ends June 30, 2019.

The Guild also proposed immediate vesting in the defined contribution plan; employees now must wait three years for vesting. The AP said it’s not interested in providing a vesting benefit for employees who may not stay on the job.

The AP now contributes quarterly to the DC plan. Its bargainers refused a proposal from the Guild that the company contribute bi-weekly. Continue reading

AP improves wage offer as company, Guild continue to discuss news associates

The Associated Press improved its economic offer to Guild-covered staffers as the union and the company bargained over three days this week.

The company’s original wage offer was 1.5 percent in the first year; 1.75 percent in the second year; and 2 percent in the third, with a $500 lump sum in the second year.

On Thursday, the company said it would pay more in raises upfront with 2 percent in the first year; 1.75 percent in the second year; and 1.5 percent in the third, with a $500 lump sum payable upon ratification of a new contract.

This means a top-scale editorial unit employee who now earns $1,250.99 a week would make $1,276.01 a week in the first year; $1,298.34 in the second and $1,317.82 in the third. Under the first proposal, those employees would have earned $1,269.75 in the first year; $1,291.98 in the second year; and the same, $1,317.82 in the third.

Total new dollars annually under the first proposal would have been $7,091.93, including the $500 bonus. Under the new proposal, the figure is $7,738.13, including the bonus. For AP’s explanation of wage increases, click here

In response to employees who have a spouse and more than one child on health insurance, the company proposed adding two new tiers of employee plus two or more children and employee, spouse and two or more children. Continue reading

AP, Guild continue to discuss news associate position

The Associated Press responded to some of the Guild’s concerns about a new position by clarifying the work that news associates could do.

However, the News Media Guild bargainers still view the 16 positions on the four regional desks as a dead-end job because the news associates would be laid off at the end of their two-year term, requiring the AP to train as many as 16 new employees.

The AP’s new proposed contract language, provided Wednesday, limits news associates to the following work: member pickups, daybooks, calendars, member exchanges, editorial roundups and the following photo work: the selection, captioning and transmission of member photo pickups, either to an AP photo desk or directly to members and customers. News associates would do no work that receives a byline, tag line or credit line.

Read the AP’s latest proposal here

The company proposal says news associates won’t be used to enable the layoff of other employees or the elimination of positions covered by this agreement. However, the Guild is concerned about what will happen when an editorial assistant or breaking news staffer quits or moves to another AP job. “Will the company fill those positions or will they quietly disappear with time?” News Media Guild President Martha Waggoner asked. Continue reading