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AP contracts ratified by Editorial Unit, Technology Unit

Members of the News Media Guild’s editorial and technology units have ratified a new, three-year contract with The Associated Press.

The secret-ballot votes were tallied Monday by the Guild’s elections committee. About 83 percent of ballots were in support of the tentative agreement, which was reached in late January after more than a year of bargaining.

The new contract, which replaces an agreement that expired in September 2017, includes three salary increases and three one-time payments. The new contract will quadruple the amount of paid parental leave for fathers and adoptive parents and also allow employees to use sick leave to care for ill family members, including children, spouses and parents.

The deal calls for a $750 lump sum payment upon ratification. It also calls for 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.

The contract also calls for for annual 20 percent increases in monthly health insurance premiums for the top-tier health plan. It calls for annual 15 percent increases to the basic health plan and the introduction of an optional high deductible health plan next year.

AP also agreed to the Guild’s proposal to add insurance coverage for applied behavioral analysis therapy, a commonly prescribed treatment for children with autism.

Rank-and-file Guild negotiators met with the AP bargaining team more than 50 times in New York City over a nearly 18-month period. The Guild was represented at negotiations by Jill Bleed of Little Rock, Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports, technician Dave Herron of Seattle, technician Ed Morsett of Denver, and Guild administrator Kevin Keane.

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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: 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.

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BARGAINING: AP revises wage offer

The Associated Press introduced a revised wages proposal Thursday that would give employees a 1.5 percent raise upon ratification of a new contract.

The company proposal would then include a $1,000 lump sum payment on July 1, 2019; and a 1.5 percent raise on July 1, 2020. AP did not present a revised health insurance proposal, which would sharply increase premiums in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The AP’s previous wages proposal called for a $1,000 lump sum payment upon ratification, followed by a 1.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2019; and a 1.5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2020.

Also Thursday, the AP introduced a revised proposal on job security for the editorial unit. The company proposal would assign employees into “organizational units” rather than relying just on geographic location. Now, the company has separate verticals for business, sports and entertainment. AP’s new proposal world create additional vertical-like operations.

The proposed organizational units are: US News, International News, Washington News, Global Enterprise (including Global Investigations), Sports News, Business News, Health & Science News, Entertainment News, Religion News, News Operations (including Data Center), Digital News (including Nerve Center and News Research), Broadcast and Photos.

The AP said the new language would reflect current operations.

The Guild’s negotiating committee believes that the proposal has the greatest potential impact on job reductions _ as in, who can bump whom in the event of layoffs. It does not affect how employees are credited for their years of service, and it also preserves language that says an employee cannot bump an employee in a different geographic location.

Several rounds of layoffs have occurred since the existing job security language was written into the contract more than a decade ago. Guild bargainers told the AP that any changes must be carefully reviewed because AP has shown its willingness to lay off workers.

The Guild team is reviewing the company counter-proposal closely with its attorney and plans a formal response later this month.

The company also advanced a proposal on Article 1, Coverage. The article describes what union-covered work is and defines which jobs are part of the bargaining unit and which jobs are management.

Also Thursday, the Guild relayed concerns from employees in Philadelphia who have been told that the East regional desk may be moved to New York City. The AP responded that no decisions have been made yet on the potential move.

Bargaining will resume May 22.

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 managing editor Brian Carovillano, Jessica Bruce, senior vice president for human resources and corporate communications; and AP’s attorney Steve Macri.

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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.