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.
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?
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.
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.