After two days of intensive bargaining on Wednesday and Thursday, the Guild bargaining team yesterday evening reached a tentative contract agreement with Times management. The following is a brief summary of the major terms of the agreement. This is mainly to give everyone a broad overview of the whole agreement; we also expect to put out additional department-focused updates with more details, as well as the full package of all draft contract documents and a comprehensive summary before the membership votes. We anticipate voting on the agreement in approximately two weeks. Informational meetings will be arranged before and on the days of voting for questions and discussion.
The unanimous recommendation of the bargaining team is to approve this agreement. While this is certainly not the agreement we hoped to achieve going into bargaining, after four-and-a-half months of meetings with the company, we believe it is the best agreement achievable at this time. We are sure many of you will have doubts and concerns about the agreement, and we want to be sure to address all of those fully and completely. We urge all Guild members to plan to attend an informational meeting and vote. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, we encourage you to contact the Guild office or one of the Guild bargaining team members.
Guild Bargaining Team
Ralph Erickson (Circulation, Local President)
Phil Kearney (Advertising)
Karl Neice (News)
Darryl Sclater (Local Administrative Officer)
Darren Carroll (Guild International Representative)
Our two days of bargaining with the Times last week involved a fairly full round of back and forth exchanging of proposals and counter-proposals. We reached tentative agreements on several issues, and were encouraged by some fairly significant moves made by the company team. However, almost all the major issues remain on the table, and the degree to which the company moved varied quite a bit from one area to another. On some issues they did not move at all. While we are generally encouraged, we see quite a bit of work still to be done, and welcome continued input from the membership as we try to narrow down the number of outstanding issues and the distance between the Guild and the company.
In the completed column, we reached tentative agreements on an updated Photographers’ Equipment Plan and an increased transit pass subsidy. The Equipment Plan should provide some modest additional protections and benefits for photographers using their own equipment. The transit pass language doubles the existing annual subsidy, and while it still remains modest at $200, it adds the subsidy guarantee to the contract.
We also reached tentative agreement on arrangements to share work with unaffiliated online staff in the areas of graphic design and ad sales support, subject to specific limits that keep the relative Guild and unaffiliated staff in balance.
At today’s bargaining session the company presented a new proposal intended to achieve cost-savings in the Home Delivery department. While it is less extreme than what had been discussed before, it would still involve major concessions by the Guild in the area of our core jurisdiction, and would have a major, direct, and unavoidably negative impact on Guild members working in Home Delivery. However, it also introduced some ways to limit and offset that negative impact.
Previously the company had outlined two distinct options for the future of Home Delivery. The first would have involved a simple option to transfer all Home Delivery operations to a group of independently contracted outside dealerships, each of which would be responsible for delivery in a specific area. The second would have maintained the existing employee-based operation, in which Guild employees supervise delivery, but with drastically reduced pay and staffing levels.
The new proposal is a limited hybrid of the two approaches. It would allow a limited number of dealerships to be introduced over the term of contract. And while it would not involve any pay cuts for anyone currently employed, it would allow the introduction of a new, lower-paid classification (to be called District Manager) which would perform the same functions as current District Advisers.
Your Guild bargaining team met with the company yesterday and today. The most significant development of today’s session was a first look at the company’s core economic proposal.
The company’s proposal would involve a three-year contract running from February 1, 2013 through January 31, 2016. There would be no wage increases during the first two years of the contract.
However, effective February 1, 2014 (approximately ten months from now), each Guild employee would receive a one-time lump-sum bonus payment equal to one percent of his or her straight-time pay for the previous year.
After that, effective February 1, 2015, the company would increase total straight-time wages in the Guild unit by an overall average of one percent. However, the one-percent increase in total wages would not be distributed evenly among all employees. It would be in the form of a budget pool for merit pay increases, to be individually calculated and distributed entirely at the company’s discretion. Consequently, any individual employee might receive a wage increase of more than one percent, less than one percent, or zero.
Our two days of meetings with the company last week focused primarily on the issue of sharing work between Guild members and unaffiliated online staff. The company brought forward several new proposals aimed at changing our existing agreements, which currently do not permit the Guild to have jurisdiction over online work, but also do not allow unaffiliated staff to perform Guild print-related work. The company wants to keep the restrictions on the Guild in place, but change the second part, and permit unaffiliated staff to do a certain amount of Guild work in both the news and advertising and marketing departments.
The previous proposals from the company in this area were very sweeping, and would essentially have provided the company with a blank check in terms of re-assigning work at will. The new proposals were encouraging because they represented a significant narrowing of the company’s demands. They were more carefully focused on different areas of work, and contained some specific limitations that would be helpful in protecting individual jobs and ensuring the access of Guild members to specific kinds of work.
We are not sure yet if these proposals, either individually or collectively, will represent a path to a mutually beneficial agreement with the company. Some parts of the proposals are definitely good. Others will need quite a bit more work. The Guild team will be looking at these proposals very carefully to see what will work and what won’t, and where we can possibly build on and improve them. One area of particular concern is the amount of content unaffiliated online staff might be able to contribute to the print edition of the paper, which still appears to be excessive under the company proposal.