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