A Mixed Bag of a Meeting - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #4

Yesterday’s bargaining session with the company, our fourth, had its ups and downs. On the plus side, the company withdrew its proposal that the Guild waive its members’ rights under the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) ordinance. Because of this, we will keep the current sick pay system established when the ordinance went into effect last September, and will not revert to the old “Two Percent” attendance policy. This was a welcome change in the company’s position.

We also welcomed the company’s interest in further reviewing the current Orca commuter transit subsidy.

Regarding the pension plan, the company shared some additional financial information on funding costs and plan status, which we will be evaluating further.

The company provided a helpful outline of both current and intended online-related training in both the news and advertising departments. While the company team said they believed they were doing “a pretty good job” in the news department, they acknowledged they were probably behind the curve in advertising, and that it would help sales effectiveness and efficiency to have Guild sales reps fully educated about online products and promotions. However, they also emphasized that they did not intend to make a contractual commitment to training, either in advertising or the newsroom, and reserved the right to select who would and would not be trained in any given area.

Similarly, the company acknowledged a need and a desire to clarify policy around incentive plans and payments. However, they also rejected our proposal to put some additional protections for incentives in the contract, indicating they preferred to deal with any problems “on a case by case basis.” Beyond this, they repeated their own proposal to remove from the contract all the current commitments on minimum incentives and commission rates, and make all incentive programs exclusively at company discretion.

On medical and dental, the company repeated its rejection of our proposal to set the family premium split at 70/30 and the dental premium at 50/50. Instead, the company reiterated its determination to also eliminate the guaranteed 85/15 split on the employee only share of medical coverage, and place the entire cost of medical premiums on a “me too” basis relative to unaffiliated employees, with all the splits on premium cost to be exclusively at company discretion.

The company also repeated its rejection of our proposals guaranteeing a 30-hour weekly minimum schedule for most Guild employees (the threshold for qualifying for medical benefits) and our fully compensated parking proposal.

With respect to company proposals to allow unaffiliated online staff to perform Guild work, we received some additional information about the company’s intentions in advertising in the near future. The company team went into some detail about areas where they saw potential overlap and efficiencies between print and online.

What the company did not explain was why they could not address their concerns or achieve efficiencies under the current Guild contract, which freely allows the assignment of additional types of work to Guild employees. Nor did the company team explain why, if their concern was focused on narrow and limited areas of overlap, they required the kind of blanket waiver of all jurisdiction that they have asked for, which would give them a free hand to assign unaffiliated online staff to any and all Guild work in news and advertising.

As we continue to talk with the company about its proposals, we honestly hope to be able to clearly identify the actual problems they may be trying to address. That is the case with all the issues we discussed yesterday, as well as other major issues the company has raised, such as outside activities, the future of the Home Delivery department, and seniority. First and foremost, our concern is to establish whether or not there really is a problem, and where exactly it is located. Second, to see if there is a way to address it that does not negatively affect the rights, interests, benefits, and livelihoods of our fellow Guild members. We believe each and every individual Guild member is entitled to equal respect as a “partner” with the company, and are seeking to represent you as such.

Present for the Guild: Ralph Erickson, Karl Neice, Teresa Scribner, Phil Kearney, Darryl Sclater, Darren Carroll.

Present for the Times: Mike Shepard, Martin Hammond, Valerie Inforzato, Leon Espinoza, Mike Sheehan.

Our next meetings with the company will be Tuesday, Feb. 5, and Thursday, Feb. 7.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email Administrative Officer Darryl Sclater at ao37082@gmail.com, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190, or contact one of the Guild bargaining committee members.

Posted on January 25, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.