Seattle Times Contract Vote

 

Voting for the new 2016-2019 Seattle Times Guild contract concluded yesterday at 5:30 p.m.

Based on the tally of ballots at the end of voting, the new contract was approved by a significant majority.

It has been a long-standing Pacific NW Guild practice not to publish any specific numbers relating to internal votes.  However, any member in good standing who wants more detail on the vote can request to examine the ballots and voting materials at the Guild office. If you wish to do so, please contact the Guild office by phone or email.  

Thank you to everyone who voted.  

Thank you also to everyone who participated in the process along the way, by responding to surveys, sending in e-mails, talking with members of the committee, and communicating with fellow employees and Times managers. 

Critical comments and positive suggestions were both vitally important in directing our talks with the company. 

Regardless of whether or not you were fully satisfied with the final agreement, your voice and contribution were vital to whatever improvements and positive additions we were able to gain in the final agreement. 

Your commitment to each other is ultimately what allows us to achieve anything at all.

 

From your bargaining team:
 
Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG):

Thank you!

 

Posted on June 30, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #9

 

TENTATIVE AGREEMENT


After an extended session of negotiations today, your Guild bargaining  committee reached a tentative agreement with Seattle Times management on terms for a new three-year contract, which would run through March 31, 2019.

The contract will not become official unless it is approved by a majority of Seattle Times Guild members in a formal vote.

We expect to be holding informational meetings within the next two weeks to provide more detail on the new proposed contract terms, and to allow members of the unit to consider and discuss them. We anticipate conducting the formal vote to approve or disapprove the new contract no later than the last week in June.

While the proposed new contract is far from ideal, the Guild committee nevertheless believes it represents a net positive for the unit membership. Therefore, the committee will be unanimously recommending the agreement for approval at the vote.

Listed below is a brief summary of the key elements of the new agreement:


WAGES

Effective the first full pay period after July 1, all members of the bargaining unit will receive a 2 percent across-the-board wage increase.

In July 2017, everyone will receive a lump-sum bonus equal to 1.5 percent of the previous year’s pay.

In July 2018, everyone will receive a 1.5 percent across-the-board wage increase.

For everyone paid above the contract minimums, the percentages will apply to their personal rate of pay.

In addition to the across-the-board increases, the minimum scales for News Residents, News Assistants, and Field Assistants will also be increased, and a new, higher pay classification will be created for Regional Outside Sales.


PENSION

The company withdrew their proposal for a mid-contract option to reopen separate, mandatory bargaining on the contract pension-plan language.

Instead, they accepted Guild-proposed language in which we offered to meet and discuss (but not to bargain) the necessity of possible changes to the plan if the company requested it. We would carefully consider anything they presented, but we would not be obliged to agree to anything.


SEVERANCE - HOME DELIVERY & AD DESIGN OUTSOURCING

We agreed on 2 weeks of pay for each year of service for the first two service years, and then 1 week of pay for each additional service year, up to a maximum of 26 weeks pay total.

The minimum severance would be 4 weeks of pay.

The last year of service would be calculated pro rata, up to the last day worked.

(Under this formula, someone with 12.5 years of service would receive 14.5 weeks of pay, someone with 17.7 years of service would receive 19.7 weeks of pay, and so forth, up to the maximum value of 26 weeks of pay.)


CELLPHONE REIMBURSEMENT

The company withdrew their proposal to mandate use of a personal cellphone or smartphone for work. Language will remain status quo, and the company will provide any mandatory devices. A personal smartphone may be approved for work use an alternative. The reimbursement for an approved smartphone will be increased from $50 to $65 per month.


PARKING & COMMUTING

We could not achieve a hard cap on the monthly cost of parking for those required to bring cars to the Denny location for work. However, the company agreed to reinstate the contractual 50/50 split on cost, which lapsed following sale of the Fairview & Denny lot. Because the current $200 monthly cost is presently split $110 on the employee side and $90 on the company side, the next $20 in increased monthly cost will be picked up by the company. After that, any further increase will be split 50/50.

For employees needing to commute by car, the company agreed to continue to provide parking spots if they are available, and to charge the employee no more than the company’s actual cost of obtaining use of the space.

If and when parking is relocated due to construction across the street, the company will meet with the Guild to address concerns about access and safety, as they emerge.

The transit pass subsidy will be increased from $200 to $400 per year.


SUBMITTING EXPENSES

Business-related expenses will need to be submitted within 60 days of the employee knowing they have been incurred.


MEDICAL INSURANCE

The current 20 percent maximum employee share for employee-only coverage will continue for the life of the contract.

The current 35 percent maximum share for dependent coverage will be locked in for the 2017 and 2018 plan years. In 2019, it will be no more than what is paid by management and unaffiliated staff.

The maximum $75 spousal surcharge will be locked in for the 2017 and 2018 plan years. In 2019, it will be no more than what is paid by management and unaffiliated staff.


DENTAL INSURANCE

Cost will be locked in at a 50/50 employee/company split for the life of the contract.


PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

New parents may use up to 6 weeks of accumulated paid sick leave for non-medical parental leave, if they have the accumulated time available.


SCHEDULING

The minimum required notice of change to reporting times will be extended from 24 hours to 48 hours.

The required notice for posting of daily schedules will continue at two weeks.

For any shift that is changed without proper notice, where the change is not justified on an emergency basis, the employee will be paid 2 hours of the shift at the overtime rate.


HOLIDAY SCHEDULES

Full-time employees working a fifth shift in a holiday week, but not working on the actual holiday, will receive overtime pay for all hours worked in excess of 32.


PROBATION, SUBSTITUTE PAY, JOB PROTECTIONS

An employee substituting in a higher classification will receive that classification’s higher rate of pay after 14 days, rather than 30.

Former employees returning to work on a temporary basis, and then converting to regular positions, will not have to repeat probation if they are rehired with 24 months.

The restriction period exempting News Residents from grievance-and-arbitration job protections will be reduced to 18 months, instead of the full three-term of the residency. 


PHOTOGRAPHERS EQUIPMENT

If a photographer is laid off, he or she may request to keep any items of company-supplied equipment. The decision as to whether the equipment is surplus or not will remain in the discretion of the company. If ownership of the equipment is transferred to the employee, its assessed value will be recorded as compensation for tax purposes as required by law.


SUBSTANCE ABUSE POLICY

Marijuana will be referenced in the substance-abuse policy as a substance which can be lawfully obtained and consumed. While it is not currently possible to implement a marijuana test standard that is different from the federal NIDA standard, or a test method that is different than the commonly used urine test, if new standards and test methods become available under Washington state law, the Guild and company will meet to consider modifying the substance-abuse policy to match.


Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)


If you have questions or concerns about any part of the tentative agreement, please feel free to talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

 

The committee thanks everyone who participated throughout this process, whether it was by filling out a Guild survey, sharing information about your job or department, asking questions (or suggesting questions for us to ask the company), helping to communicate with other Guild members, or simply by sharing your opinion, whether in private or in public. 

Our ability to achieve anything positive at all through this often difficult process depends more than anything on the depth of solidarity, mutual concern, and mutual support that exists among Guild members at the Times.

You are the union.

The final decision on this contract will shortly be in your hands.

Thank you!

 

Posted on June 9, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #8

 

KEY REMAINING ISSUES

In Thursday's bargaining session last week, the Guild and the company exchanged updated "package" proposals between the two sides.

By doing this, we were able to narrow the number of key issues that are still unresolved between us. Each side offered to withdraw some proposals, and to come to a mid-point compromise on others, if we could reach an overall agreement.

However, several key issues remain unresolved, and will likely determine whether or not we can reach a final agreement soon.


BASIC PAY RATES AND RAISES

For basic, across-the-board wage increases, the Guild side revised our proposed wage increases from 4 percent per year for three years, to 3 percent each of the first two years, and 2 percent the third year.

The company added a 1.5 (one-and-a-half) percent lump-sum bonus payment in July, 2017 to its proposal. So the company's revised offer is for a 1 percent raise in July of this year, the 1.5 percent lump-sum bonus in 2017, and another 1 percent raise in July 2018.

.
OUTSOURCING TRANSITION AND SEVERANCE (HOME DELIVERY AND AD DESIGN)

For severance payment and timing of implementation, the Guild held to our proposal of two weeks of pay per year of service for the first five years , and one week of pay for each additional year after that, with minimum of six weeks and a maximum of 35 weeks. For timing on the outsourcing of ad design services, we revised our proposal to ask that no involuntary layoffs take place before September 1 of this year.

The company held to its proposal of one week of pay for each year of service, with two weeks minimum and 26 weeks maximum. They also continued to oppose any time limits on implementation.

On the Guild side, we continue to be concerned about both the total amount of severance, and the distribution. We would like to see better payouts overall, and a more even distribution, to allow for at least the partial coverage of medical costs and other continuing expenses for everyone being laid off.


PENSION

The company continued to stick with their proposal for a provision that would allow them to re-open mandatory bargaining related to the pension plan midway through the contract.

As we have described in earlier bulletins, this continues to be a major concern for the Guild committee. Given the open-ended nature of the proposal, we can't be clear on what its ultimate impacts might be.

It is difficult for us to see a way to come to agreement on this, since we can't know the full effects of what we would be agreeing to.


PARKING

For parking availability and cost at the Denny location, we got a bit closer, but not that much.

From the Guild side, we recognized that while the company will have access to parking provided by the developer during construction across the street, at this time the exact location and layout of that alternative parking arrangement is not known. So instead of asking for specific commitments in advance, we asked that the company agree to sit down with the Guild to address safety and security concerns, as they emerge during the process.

However, cost caps continue to be an issue.

The Guild repeated our proposal to cap the cost of a monthly parking permit at $100 for anyone required to regularly bring a car to the Denny location as part of their job.

Our fundamental point was that if the company really wants to limit increases in the cost of its parking subsidy, it should reduce the work requirements that oblige significant numbers of employees to maintain a monthly parking pass. If more people could work from home, or be assigned remotely, or be scheduled in such a way that parking passes could be shared, the costs would be reduced, both for the company and for employees. However, control of those business decisions rests with the company, not with employees. Therefore, the primary cost burden of not making those business changes should rest on the company, to provide an incentive for change.

The company did offer to continue to share 50% of the increase in any parking cost, up to a maximum of $350 total. Up to $175 would be paid by the company; after that, the employee would have to cover any increased cost.

For commuters, who personally pay the full cost of parking, the company continued to offer no commitments, either as to the availability of parking or cost.


SCHEDULING

The Guild committee is continuing to seek better commitments from the company on regular scheduling and notice of changes to schedules. We are also seeking an overtime penalty that would apply if a schedule change is made without proper notice and is not excusable based on illness, breaking news, or other genuine emergency. Our main desire is to have an incentive for consistent scheduling and notice of changes.


In most other areas, we feel either that we are quite close to agreement, or each side has nominally agreed to the same terms, if the remaining big issues can be resolved to its satisfaction.

Here is a selected list of other significant items, where both sides are at the same point in their offers:

- Expense submission: Must be within 60 days of employee knowing about the expense.

- Paid parental leave: 6 weeks, if the employee has sick time or EIB time accrued.

- Wage scales: Small increases to minimum scales for News Residents, News Assistants, and Field Assistants.

- Classifications: Creation of two new Sales & Advertising job classifications and one new pay classification; all new positions will continue to be fully covered by job-security protections of the contract.

- Medical insurance: Guarantee no increases to dependent premium cost shares and surcharges for 2017 and 2018 plan years.

- Dental insurance: Guarantee continuation of 50/50 premium split.


The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again tomorrow, Thursday, June 9, from 9 a.m. to noon, to continue negotiation.


Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)


Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.


We welcome your input on any items of particular interest for you and are grateful for your solidarity and support!

 

Posted on June 8, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #7

 

COMPANY COUNTER-PROPOSALS, INCLUDING ECONOMICS

 

In Tuesday's bargaining session last week, the Guild made counter-proposals to the company on their outsourcing proposals. The company responded on Thursday with a broad economic proposal, including their first general proposal on wages.

The company presented their overall proposal as a package, meaning that to get any one item, we would need to agree to everything. We could not pick and choose the different parts.

This does not mean that we could not propose other combinations, just that the company was being careful to limit the conditions of their current proposal.


BASIC PAY RATES

For basic, across-the-board wage increases, the company proposed 1 percent in July of this year, zero in 2017, and another 1 percent in July 2018.

These increases would apply to both the minimum scale rates in the contract, and to an individual's personal rate, if it is above the scale.


INSURED BENEFITS

On benefits, we had proposed reducing the maximum employee contribution for spouse and family coverage to 30 percent, and guaranteeing it for the term of the contract. The company counter-proposed keeping the maximum at the current 35 percent, and guaranteeing that rate for the 2017 and 2018 plan years. After that, it would be "same as" the rate for managerial and unaffiliated employees.

We had also proposed to eliminate the "spousal surcharge." The company counter-proposed to cap it at the current $75 per month for 2017 and 2018, after which it would also be "same as" the charge for managerial and unaffiliated employees.

The maximum contribution for individual employee insurance would remain at the current 20 percent (we had proposed to reduce it to 15 percent).

The company would accept our proposal to lock in the current 50/50 split on the cost of dental coverage for the term of the contract


PAID PARENTAL LEAVE

We had proposed up to eight weeks of paid parental leave, with a provision to add paid time up to that amount if an employee did not have sufficient paid sick time accrued to cover the full amount.

The company counter-proposed to allow use of paid sick time for up to six weeks of paid parental leave, but only if the employee has the accumulated time available. (Currently, paid sick time is accrued at the rate of 80 hours per year for a full-time employee, and on a pro rata basis for part-time employees.)


EXPENSES

The company offered to withdraw their proposal to mandate use of a personal cell-phone. This would remain at the status quo, where the company is responsible to provide any mandatory equipment, but if use of a personal cell phone is approved, it will be reimbursed at up to $50 per month.


PARKING

For employees required to bring cars to work, the company offered to continue to provide parking at a nearby facility, and to continue to pay 50% of the monthly cost, but only for any total amount less than $300. If the total monthly cost exceeds $300, the employee would have to pay 100% of any additional cost.

For employees occasionally called to work from a remote location, the company offered to provide access to parking, but not to pay for it.

For employees needing to use a personal vehicle for commuting purposes, the company offered no future commitments on either availability or cost of parking.


OUTSOURCING TRANSITION AND SEVERANCE (HOME DELIVERY AND AD DESIGN)

On Tuesday, we proposed to raise the minimum and maximum levels of severance available, based on years of service. As part of this proposal, we also proposed to dispense with the separate 50% subsidy for six months of employee-only COBRA medical insurance. We feel it simply makes more sense to provide people additional money toward all their expenses, including medical coverage either from COBRA or another source.

We proposed to raise the minimum amount of severance from two weeks pay to six weeks pay, and to raise the maximum from 20 weeks to 35 weeks. Employees would receive two weeks per year for the first five years of service, and one week for each additional year after that. 

We also proposed that no involuntary layoffs take place in the Ad Design group before December 1 of this year.

On Thursday, the company came back with a proposal to raise the maximum amount of severance to 26 weeks. The minimum would remain at two weeks. However, this was also offset by elimination of the company's original COBRA subsidy proposal. They also rejected the proposed time limit on layoffs.


JOB CLASSIFICATIONS

The company provided some additional pay information on their new proposed Outside Regional Sales position. 

The pay scale would be higher than the current C1 scale, but would have only four steps instead of six. The lowest level on the new scale would be 4 percent above the current top on the C1 scale (an increase of $0.98 per hour). After four years, the highest level for the new scale would be $4.32 per hour above the highest level on the C1 scale, which is a final difference of approximately 17 percent between the top of the two scales. 

The tradeoff in the company's proposal is that anyone in the new classification could not grieve or arbitrate any discipline for job performance, up to and including termination. Effectively, with regard to job performance, they would be "at will" employees.

From the Guild side, we had proposed to eliminate a similar limitation on the grievance and arbitration protections for News Residents. The company counter-proposed to reduce that limitation to the first 18 months of a residency, rather than the full three-year term.


ADDITIONAL ITEMS

The company's overall package included a general requirement to accept all the rest of the company's "most recent proposals."

This would include the company's most recent proposal for a re-opener provision covering the pension plan, which we described in the last bulletin, and the 45-day limit on submitting expenses.

The company also has offered to accept some additional Guild proposals on administration of substitute pay and overtime pay.


The Guild bargaining team appreciates the fact that the company made a proposal that is serious and substantive in a lot of areas. However, we feel we still have a number of serious differences to resolve before we can get to a final agreement.


The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again this week on Thursday, June 2, from 9 a.m. to noon.


Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)


Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

We welcome your input and appreciate your solidarity and support!

 

Posted on May 30, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #6

 

GUILD ECONOMIC PROPOSALS

At our most recent bargaining session, on Thursday last week, we moved toward narrowing down the list of open issues and presented the company with an initial base wage proposal.

 

BASIC PAY RATES

For the three-year term of the contract, we proposed an annual base wage increase of 4 percent per year. The increase would apply both to the minimum wage scales in the contract, and to each individual's personal rate, if that rate is higher.

We also proposed revisions to some of the lower-level wage scales. Because the starting rates of some of the scales have not been updated for some time, a number of positions potentially start at less than $15 per hour. We proposed to push those up to at least $15.

We also proposed to guarantee that individual pay rates could not be reduced during the life of the contract, including any pay over the minimum scales, as long as the person remains in the same classification. Currently, the contract allows the company to remove any extra pay that is classified as merit pay, which at present is the bulk of extra pay that most people receive.

 

ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION & REIMBURSEMENT

As part of opening up the broader discussion of wages, we also updated some proposals:

(1) We formally withdrew our proposal to resume accrual of benefits on the pension plan.

(2) With respect to parking at the Denny location, we modified our proposal so that it would cap the cost of parking at no more than current levels, both for those required to bring their vehicles to the Denny location and for regular commuters. We also asked that the company commit to guaranteeing secure and convenient access to any remote parking lot that may be used during the transition period while the building across the street is under construction. Earlier, the company had outlined an agreement with the developer that will provide access to parking across the street when the new building is completed, and provides for parking at another location (as yet to be determined) in the interim. If a shuttle service is necessary to move people between the Denny building and the parking lot, we asked that it operate during all working hours for the building, including later evening hours. We emphasized concern about this as a safety issue.

(3) We modified our cell-phone reimbursement proposal to a straightforward increase from $50 to $85 per month. We withdrew our proposal on to business-related data-overage charges, which the company said would be too difficult to administer. We also withdrew our proposal for reimbursement of extra home-internet charges. (The company had said that there is no minimum internet requirement related to working from home.)

(4) On the company's proposal to put in place a time limit for submitting expenses for reimbursement, we counter-proposed a limit of 90 days. The company promptly came back with a counter-counter of 45 days.

(5) We modified our proposal to immediately move all News Residents to regular reporter or photographer positions, as permanent employees. Instead, we proposed to provide Residents with the same full grievance and arbitration protections as all other employees, and as part of our wage proposal, we proposed to raise the Resident wage scales to the regular pay rates for reporters and photographers. We also proposed to reduce the maximum number of potential Residents at any one time from the 20 to five, in order to reflect the smaller overall size of the newsroom. On this specific point, the company quickly counter-proposed a limit of 10.

 

COMPANY PENSION RE-OPENER PROPOSAL

The company presented us with a modified version of a proposal they had made earlier. This proposal would allow the company to demand to bargain over the terms of the pension article during the life of the contract, if they want to make changes to the specific terms of the pension article or to the pension plan itself.

The specific rationale for this was that company might be able to take advantage of administrative or legal changes that could help reduce the financial pressure on the company arising out of its pension obligations.

However, when we asked what could be excluded in terms of what changes the company might seek, they declined to say.

We are particularly concerned that the company proposal would require us to bargain. In the past, when we have made changes to the pension (including agreeing to the pension freeze) we have always done so in circumstances where we were not required to bargain. The contract was closed, and the company requested us to consider the changes, based on their explanation of the need involved. The requirement to bargain means that effectively we would not have a choice whether or not to consider any changes, and that the company would be able to push any demand for changes as far as they choose.

This is obviously a big change. In practical terms, it would mean that the pension provisions would not really be set in place, even after we signed the contract.

We pointed out to the company that our group has always worked with the company in the past, when they were able to show legitimate problems and needs. We also offered to put language in the contract committing us to meet promptly with the company to discuss and consider any urgent issues related to the pension. However, we would retain the right to say "yes" or "no" to any changes during the term of the contract.

We feel strongly that what the company is asking for is ultimately a blank check. It is blank both because we don't know the full scope of what might be demanded from us, or how far the company would push it.

We avoided emphasizing this problematic proposal earlier, because we initially thought the company might be content with a more general commitment to work with them in the future, and we did not want to unduly alarm unit members. But the company seems committed to their position, and it is looking like an area where agreement will be very difficult.

 

OUTSOURCING PROPOSALS

We continue to discuss the terms of the company's outsourcing proposals, and expect to provide counterproposals to the company in conjunction with our other economic proposals.

 

The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again this week on Tuesday, May 24 and Thursday, May 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, at which point we expect to continue discussion of these and other open proposals.

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

Thank you for your solidarity and support!

 

Posted on May 23, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #5

Negotiations have been on hiatus for the last several weeks, due to scheduling needs on both sides of the bargaining table. However, we will resume bargaining on Thursday of this week.

In the interim, we would like to provide some additional details about proposals that were explored in earlier sessions or were updated.


NEW OUTSIDE SALES CLASSIFICATION

The company has proposed to create a new job and pay classification in advertising sales. Right now, "Outside Sales" is a single job classification and is one of the jobs on the C.1 pay scale. 

The company proposal is to create a new classification covering outside sales work selling to clients defined as "regional" advertisers. 

The proposal would effectively create two “silos” in the area of outside sales, dividing people into one of two groups. Because the remaining work falling under the existing Outside Sales classification would be reduced, this proposal impacts not just anyone who might end up in the new classification, but also all those remaining in the existing one.

Even more significantly, the company proposal seeks to remove grievance and arbitration rights from the new classification. This means that anyone in the new classification could be terminated and replaced at any time at company discretion. Currently, every Guild employee who has completed six months of employment is protected by a "just cause" standard of discipline, which means that except in cases of economic layoffs where the total number of jobs is being reduced, the company must provide a valid justification for an employee's termination, which the employee can challenge under the contract grievance provisions.

As an offsetting factor, the base pay for the new position would be somewhat higher than the rate for the current Outside Sales position. Also, the company has said that no one would be moved into the new classification involuntarily. 

The Guild bargaining committee is extremely troubled by this proposal to create a two-tier system covering the most essential protections of the Guild contract. It seems to us a violation of the basic principles of solidarity and equity. Apart from that, despite the company's attempts at explanation, it is not at all clear to us why one group needs to be treated fundamentally differently based on any valid business purpose.


PARKING & COMMUTING

We have continued to discuss parking and commuting issues with the company, with mixed progress. 

For cases where vehicles are required for dispatch to assignments (such as for reporters, photographers, and outside sales staff), while we have not reached any agreements, the company has indicated that they are open to exploring possible alternatives and new ideas. The same applies to additional jobs where working from home may be an option. 

However, the future need for daily commuter parking continues to look like a much more difficult issue.

The company did provide a welcome counterproposal to the Guild's proposal to triple ORCA card transit subsidy. They proposed to double the level of the match, raising the annual contribution from $200 to $400.

 
EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT

On rules covering submission of expenses, we offered a counterproposal. Where the company wants a 30-day limit for submitting expenses, and new language referencing “finance department policies and procedures,” the Guild countered with a straightforward 6-month “drop dead” provision for submitting any known expense.

On the same topic, the company also clarified that any proposed time limit for submitting expense reports would not apply to any charges made on company-issued credit cards. While there is a time cycle for submitting expense reconciliations for these cards, the standing assumption is that all charges made on the cards are legitimate business expenses. So if an employee was late with a credit card reconciliation report, that person would not be considered liable for the unreconciled credit card balance. If an employee was repeatedly late in submitting reconciliations, the likely action from the company side would be to withdraw the credit card from future use.


OUTSOURCING PROPOSALS

The company put in writing an offer of severance to any Guild ad designers laid off as a result of their outsourcing proposal. The proposed severance package is the same as that offered under their new Home Delivery outsourcing proposal: one week of pay for each year of company service, up to a maximum of 20 weeks, plus a subsidy for 50% of the cost of employee-only COBRA medical coverage for six months.

 

The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again on Thursday, April 21, from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

 

Posted on April 18, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #4

 

UPDATED PROPOSALS

In the last couple of meetings with Seattle Times management, your Guild bargaining committee received additional details about key company proposals. We also received some responses to Guild proposals.

 

HOME DELIVERY OUTSOURCING

Management provided us with draft language for a revised Home Delivery transition agreement.

The proposed agreement would allow the company to move all functions of Home Delivery to dealerships during the three-year term of the agreement. However, there was no timeline specified for doing this. 

Effectively, what the company is asking for is an option to completely outsource, which they could exercise as they see fit. There is no question that they do intend to exercise the option, if we agree to it. The expectation behind the company proposal is that within three years, all Home Delivery operations would be handled by dealerships.

The company has said that they do not expect this to happen quickly, and they do not expect any changes to take place during the 2016 calendar year. While they have not put that in writing, but they did propose to limit any possible job reductions to four districts (out of 12 total) if any opportunity to create new dealerships did emerge during the rest of 2016.

As part of the limited dealership transition agreement in the last contract, the company agreed to provide an enhanced severance package that would cover anyone laid off in the Home Delivery department. In the company’s new proposal, there would still be severance for layoffs, but it would be smaller. The new proposal is for a week of pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 20 weeks (down from 26 in the last agreement) and a 50% subsidy for employee-only COBRA medical coverage for up to six months (a reduction from 12 months in the last agreement).

 

AD PRODUCTION OUTSOURCING

The company gave us additional information on the vendor proposal from Affinity Express, including the different rates for services and the expected turnaround times for different types of work. We also talked about the likely need to keep a certain amount of production in house, even if some functions were turned over to a third-party vendor.

 

EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENTS

Management amended their proposal on expense reimbursements, to provide for a specific 30-day time limit for submitting expenses: 

“Submitted expenses that do not comply with required policies and procedures, including requirements for timely submission of expenses and supporting documentation, will not be reimbursed, provided that bargaining unit employees shall have at minimum thirty (30) calendar days from the time an expense has been knowingly incurred to submit expenses.”

The Guild had earlier raised a concern regarding the possibility of incurring an expense or a liability that might be unknown (such as an accident liability that ultimately might not be covered by insurance), and one intent of the company's proposed language was to make clear that the 30-day limit would only start from the date someone could have known an expense was incurred.

However, we still have concerns that the proposed language appears to completely relieve the company of the obligation to reimburse an expense if it is not "timely" or if it is submitted in some way that conflicts with another "policy" or "rule."

We would appreciate additional feedback from members on filing expenses, and whether you have issues with any of systems or forms in use, including the online filing of expenses. In particular, does the 30-day timeframe seem practical based on your experience?

 

DRUG TESTING

The Guild has proposed that we change the standard for marijuana from a banned substance to a regulated substance (like alcohol)  to reflect the fact that it is now legal within the state of Washington. The problem is finding a standard of impairment, since the urine-sample method is notoriously problematic and known to vary widely between individuals. We had proposed moving to the state highway-patrol standard using a blood test, and the company agreed to look into the possibility with their testing vendor.  However, it appears that no private drug-testing company currently offers the highway-patrol test as an option. We’re continuing to see if we can find an alternative.

 

WORKPLACE SAFETY

The company gave us a specific counterproposal on ergonomic safety. The company would not agree to comprehensive annual ergonomic evaluations (which they argued would be prohibitively expensive and impractical). Instead, they propose to add additional resources for education and training in the workplace. They also reiterated the commitment to promptly address any individual concerns as they arise. Everyone is reminded that they can take any specific concerns about their work station to management at any time. If you don't receive a satisfactory response, please let the Guild know.

 

The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again on Thursday, March 24, from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

 

Posted on March 21, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #3

 

INITIAL PROPOSAL RESPONSES AND QUESTIONS

Yesterday, your Guild bargaining committee completed our fourth session meeting with representatives from Seattle Times management. 

The two sides have spent the last several meetings asking questions about each other’s opening proposals, and providing initial responses. At this point, the company has provided a full initial response to the Guild’s proposals. We are still working our way through the company’s proposals, as we try to get a clearer understanding of them.

To put it mildly, the Times was unenthusiastic about most of the Guild’s proposals. Overall, the reaction and specific responses were negative. However, in some areas the company acknowledged our concerns, interests, and goals, and seemed to leave the door open for further discussion. It is not yet clear whether we will receive any specific counterproposals.

One area where we received a clear and explicit “no” was on our request to resume participation and accrual on the frozen company pension plan.

Because of the importance of this benefit, we are carefully reviewing the numbers being presented to us by the company. The company’s main argument against unfreezing the plan is that the plan continues to be underfunded, just in terms of having enough money to cover benefits earned in the past.

The company has been making contributions to plan, to fund the existing benefits already accrued, as part of its legal obligation to bring the plan up to fully-funded status. Based on actuarial projections, the company will likely need to continue to make payments into the plan well into the future. The payments into the plan over the last several years, and the funding status of the plan, are matters of public record.

As it so happens, the only clear “yes” we received from the company was on an agreement to remove some outdated mandatory-retirement retirement from the contract.

We did get some good questions and have some good discussions with the company about our proposals covering scheduling and short-notice changes to schedules, parking and commuting issues (including problems of cost, access, and safety) and safe working conditions.

The Guild also began asking questions and trying to get more information about the company’s proposals.

In response to the Guild’s request, Times management provided us with details of the bid they have received from an outside, third-party vendor to outsource advertising design work currently performed by Guild members. We are reviewing that information very carefully.

On the company’s other big outsourcing proposal, covering Home Delivery, we have received very little specific information so far. However, the company has promised to provide us with more details on that by next week.

One area where the Guild and the company have directly opposed proposals is reimbursement for cellphone expenses. 

The Guild proposal is that the company should continue to provide any devices or equipment that it regards as mandatory. If an employee prefers to use a personal device, such as a smartphone, and the company agrees the device is compatible with the job, then the employee can receive a monthly stipend to cover business use of the device. However, it remains the employee’s choice on whether or not to use a personal device for work.

Because of the rising cost of smartphones and the need for bigger and more expensive data plans, the Guild has proposed to increase the monthly stipend from $50 to $85, and to make provision for reimbursement of work-related data-overage charges.

From its side, the company has proposed to flip the entire arrangement on its head, and allow the company simply to require someone to have a cellphone, as long the company agrees to pay the same rate of $50 per month. 

At the bargaining table, the company has said that it thinks $50 per month is still reasonable, and rejected the Guild’s proposal for data-overage reimbursement on the grounds that it would be too difficult to determine whether a person went over because of business or personal use.

From the Guild side, we have argued that $50 doesn’t realistically reflect actual costs, particularly for up-to-date smartphones. We also argued for the principle that the company has an obligation to provide equipment if that equipment is mandatory to the job. As a practical matter, we asked what limits could be placed on the required capabilities of devices that employees could be compelled to provide at their own cost, and who would get to decide whether or not a given smartphone or data plan met the company standards.

The company has said they will review what they think are the technical requirements on equipment for a given job, and give us a further response.

For the moment, the Guild and the company continue to have exactly opposite ideas on this subject.

The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again tomorrow, Friday, March 4, from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office. (FYI, for News staff, Rob Davila will be on vacation through next week; all other committee members will be available in the meantime.)

 

Posted on March 3, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #2

 

ADDITIONAL MANAGEMENT AND GUILD PROPOSALS

On Wednesday morning, from 9 a.m. to noon, your Guild bargaining committee will sit down with Seattle Times management for a second meeting as part of our negotiations for a new contract.

We expect to get more information about the company’s current proposals, and to receive an initial response from the company side to the Guild’s opening proposals.

 

MANAGEMENT PROPOSALS

In the bargaining update following our first session, we noted the two biggest items proposed from the company side: a proposal to outsource ad design work to a third-party vendor and further outsourcing of additional circulation home-delivery functions to independent third-party dealerships. 

In addition to those proposals, here are the other items the company has put forward, some or all of which we expect to be discussing further, starting Wednesday:

  • Creation of a new Outside Sales job classification to be identified as Regional Sales. The exact parameters of the classification have not yet been fully explained, but the initial proposal from the company is that in addition to forming a separate classification, employees hired into the classification would not be protected by the just cause, grievance, and arbitration provisions of the contract, and would effectively be at-will employees.
  • Several proposed job-classification adjustments, which appear to potentially affect only a few single-incumbent positions in a limited way.
  • Continuation of a purely “me-too” standard on the Guild cost-share for spouse and dependent medical coverage, including the “spousal surcharge” for any spouse eligible for insurance through his or her own employer. Through 2016, the rate had been set at a maximum 35 percent employee contribution for spouse and dependent coverage, and the “spousal surcharge” had been capped at $75. The company’s proposal would leave them undefined, with only the guarantee that we won’t be charged any more that whatever is charged to managerial and other unaffiliated employees. (The Guild employee-only coverage cost-share would remain guaranteed at the current 20 percent maximum employee contribution.)
  • Language allowing the company to deny expense reimbursements if they are not submitted in accordance with “required policies and procedures,” including a fixed timeline of 30 days for submission.
  • Permission for the company to simply require an employee to purchase a cellphone or smartphone, and maintain a voice and data plan, subject to reimbursement at a maximum rate of $50 per month. This would reverse the current contract provisions, which require the company to provide any mandatory equipment, but permit the employee to receive an allowance for a personal device, if the employee so chooses and it is compatible with the employee’s job.
  • Proposal to automatically enroll new hires in the 401(k) plan, with the initial contribution automatically set at 4% unless the employee elects to change it.
  • Tightening of the alcohol-measurement standard in the substance-abuse provisions from .05 percent to .04 percent.
  • Several additional rather technical proposals on definition of base incentives, calculation of overtime during holiday weeks, and pension-plan administration. It’s not clear at this point if these are actually substantive or simply involve cleanup or clarification of existing language.

 

GUILD PROPOSALS

From the Guild side, we put forward a wide range of proposals covering a number of different concerns. Some of these would cost the company money; others would not. No one opens a negotiation expecting that they will get everything they initially ask for. We asked the company not to respond negatively simply on the basis that something might represent an added cost, but instead to respectfully consider the need (including the simple need for fairness and equity) and to creatively offer alternative solutions, if they could not meet our proposals.

PROBATION & PROMOTION – We asked the company to credit any service a new hire might have as a temporary employee as time toward satisfying probation, and to shorten from 30 days to 7 days the time before a substitute covering a higher-paying job is owed the higher rate of pay. We also asked that all current News Residents be immediately promoted to the appropriate classification (Reporter, Photographer, etc.) and confirmed as regular full-time employees at the appropriate pay rate at least one step above their current pay rate.

BENEFITS – Reduction of the cap on the employee-only cost-share for medical coverage to 15 percent, and reinstatement of the cap for spouse and dependent coverage at 30 percent. We also proposed to eliminate the “spousal surcharge” entirely. The split on dental-insurance coverage has been 50-50 for some time, and we propose to put that in writing.

LEAVES OF ABSENCE – We proposed that benefits should remain available on the same terms for the first six months of any leave. We further proposed an 8-week minimum amount of paid maternity/paternity leave for birth or adoption of a child, and an update to the language to clarify that all prospective parents would covered, regardless of gender.

COMMUTING & PARKING – We made several proposals with the goal of ensuring (1) that employees required to bring their cars to work are reimbursed for the full cost of parking; (2) that employees bringing their cars or commuting via car actually have a safe and convenient place to park; (3) that the cost of parking for commuters is reasonably affordable; and (4) that employees commuting via public transit receive a subsidy closer to the actual cost of their commute.

EXPENSES – An increase in the smartphone or digital-device reimbursement from $50 per month to $85 per month, with additional reimbursement for work-related data overages and work-related home internet service.

ADVANCE NOTICE OF LAYOFFS – Increase in the advance notice period from 4 weeks to 6 weeks, and extension of the layoff volunteer period from 2 weeks to 3 weeks.

SCHEDULES – We proposed that 2-week advance notice of scheduling include setting a consistent starting time as well as regular days off, and that failure to provide sufficient notice of a change to a schedule that could not be justified on an emergency basis would require payment of overtime.

SAFETY & WORK ENVIRONMENT – Comprehensive annual reviews of the ergonomic quality of all work stations, and of facility ventilation and lighting systems.

DRUG POLICY – We proposed to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances, in order to recognize the reality of legalization under Washington state law, and to amend testing protocols in favor of state standards. 

As previously noted, neither the company nor the Guild put forward a comprehensive economic proposal, and both sides noted their intention to put forward full proposals on wages and compensation later. 

However, the Guild did formally propose to reinstate the accrual of benefits on the pension plan for Guild-affiliated employees, and we expect to receive a formal response and justification from the company regarding the continued frozen status of the plan.

Following tomorrow’s meeting, the Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again on Friday, February 26 from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

 

Posted on February 23, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.

Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #1

 

Yesterday, a Guild committee met with Seattle Times management for first talks on a new contract covering news, advertising, and circulation.

Before the two sides exchanged first proposals, the company offered a financial presentation outlining the last 10 years of company revenue and expense trends. The company requested that any precise numbers be treated as confidential. However, they relied on concerns raised in the presentation to justify their proposals at the table.

As part of their opening proposal, the company requested two major changes to the Guild contract, which they claimed would result in significant and necessary cost savings.

The first was a proposal to complete the outsourcing of the circulation Home Delivery department, via “assignment of all remaining home delivery functions to outside dealers.” (As part of the last contract, home delivery services on the Eastside and in south King County were outsourced to dealerships as part of an agreement that provided severance to anyone who lost a job as a result; currently, home delivery in Seattle and in north King and Snohomish counties is handled by Guild members.)

The second change was also an outsourcing proposal that envisioned “assignment of ad design responsibilities to an outside vendor.”

These outsourcing proposals are obviously of vital concern to anyone in the affected sub-departments. Because of that, we want to make the following points clear to everyone:

  • The proposals are both extremely preliminary in nature. We have not received any significant information beyond the brief descriptions quoted above. We have not yet received any specific proposals about the exact scope and timing of possible implementation. We have not received any offers regarding severance or any other offsetting benefits.
  • Because both of these proposals would involve surrender of certain areas of current Guild jurisdiction, they cannot proceed without agreement from the Guild. 
  • The company has acknowledged that they have an obligation to negotiate on these proposed changes, and that they are obliged to give the Guild the opportunity to make counterproposals that may help the company to meet its stated needs without outsourcing or other job losses. At this point, possible outsourcing is simply the company’s stated preferred option.
  • The Guild committee expects to look hard at all the possible options and to explore all alternatives for our members. We will seek to make the company justify the cost savings of any proposed move, and to fulfill all their bargaining obligations under the law, including the sharing of all information necessary for us to create constructive counterproposals.
  • Finally, any agreement must be approved as part of the whole contract, based on a vote of all the members.

The Home Delivery and ad design work areas were the only sub-departments where outsourcing was proposed. We did not receive and do not expect to receive outsourcing proposals covering any other Guild work areas.

A parallel outsourcing proposal, equally lacking in specifics, was offered to the separate Composing unit contract bargaining committee in a meeting earlier today. (The jurisdiction of the separate Composing unit overlaps with that of ad design, making the agreement of both units necessary for any changes.)

Beyond these specific outsourcing proposals, the company proposal overall was fairly limited in scope. The company made focused proposals in the areas of job classifications, overtime pay, 401(k), expense reporting, cell-phone reimbursement, grievance processing and substance abuse policy. Some of these proposals are quite technical, and we need to get more information to be sure we understand them. Once we get more details, we will provide more information in a followup bulletin.

The company did not provide any proposal on basic wages. This is the same approach the company has taken in the past, in which “language” issues are presented first, with wage discussions to follow.

The Guild also presented its opening proposal. We will outline and detail our proposals in a further bulletin as well. 

 

Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)

 

Because of the potential alarm any rumor of outsourcing can raise, we are keeping this bulletin brief to get it out in timely way, and to try to ensure that essential information doesn't get lost in a cloud of detail.

Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.

 

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.