Company Puts Seniority Proposal On the Table - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #7

Yesterday’s bargaining session was wide-ranging, covering all the departments and a variety of different issues, some very large and others quite small. We received several new proposals and counterproposals from the company and reached tentative agreements on a couple of items. The biggest item came at the end of the day, when the company put their seniority proposal on the table. In previous meetings, the company team had indicated that they might be pursuing a broad and general set of changes to the seniority and layoff provisions of the contract. What they ended up putting on the table turned out to be quite focused and specific. In the newsroom, the company is proposing to add a number of new Sports Department-specific job classifications to the contract. The proposed new job classifications are: Sports Columnist, Sports Desk Editor, Sports News Page Designer, Sports Copy Editor, Sports Reporter, Sports Zone Reporter, and Sports News Assistant.

No other seniority-related changes or additions have been proposed. The Guild committee has asked for a list of the individuals who would be placed in each of the new classifications, so that we can evaluate the scope and impact of the proposal before we respond to it.

The company also presented a proposal for a modest increase to the annual ORCA card subsidy, and counterproposals on applying the grievance process to payment of incentives and adding reference to the City of Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance to the contract. We reached a tentative agreement on the PSST language and also agreed to the company’s original proposal to update the language of the contract’s Management Rights clause.

As part of our ongoing effort to establish some firm numbers around the company’s proposal for cost-savings in the Home Delivery department, we calculated the department’s per-employee cost and reviewed our numbers with the company team. As calculated from both the company and the Guild side, the total cost of Guild staff (and therefore the Guild share of actual Home Delivery costs) turned out to be a fair bit lower than initial estimates, to the tune of about half-a-million dollars. However, the company is still focused on taking a highly disproportionate share of any total Home Delivery cost savings from the Guild area.

We also sought more detail from the company team about their proposal to assume complete control of all incentive and commission payments, to be added, reduced, or eliminated entirely at the company’s discretion. Along the way, we reviewed the history of the different incentive plans, pointing out that they had been explicitly bargained into the contract in previous years, frequently in lieu of regular wage increases. Since the company already can decide what goals incentive plans are focused on, and what targets need to be reached to earn incentives, we questioned what the company would possibly want to do in the future that it can’t do right now, except to simply reduce or eliminate incentives across the board. The company team acknowledged that they believe there are Guild groups earning incentives where the payments are too high or simply not appropriate for the position, and they may want to change or eliminate them.

Finally, the company indicated that they have been working on a more detailed plan for Home Delivery, and we expect to hear more about that at our next meeting.

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

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

The Guild's next meeting with the company is Thursday, Feb. 21.

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

Posted on February 20, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.