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.