Tentative Agreement -- Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #14

After two days of intensive bargaining on Wednesday and Thursday, the Guild bargaining team yesterday evening reached a tentative contract agreement with Times management. The following is a brief summary of the major terms of the agreement. This is mainly to give everyone a broad overview of the whole agreement; we also expect to put out additional department-focused updates with more details, as well as the full package of all draft contract documents and a comprehensive summary before the membership votes. We anticipate voting on the agreement in approximately two weeks. Informational meetings will be arranged before and on the days of voting for questions and discussion. The unanimous recommendation of the bargaining team is to approve this agreement. While this is certainly not the agreement we hoped to achieve going into bargaining, after four-and-a-half months of meetings with the company, we believe it is the best agreement achievable at this time. We are sure many of you will have doubts and concerns about the agreement, and we want to be sure to address all of those fully and completely. We urge all Guild members to plan to attend an informational meeting and vote. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, we encourage you to contact the Guild office or one of the Guild bargaining team members.

Guild Bargaining Team

Ralph Erickson (Circulation, Local President) Phil Kearney (Advertising) Karl Neice (News) Darryl Sclater (Local Administrative Officer) Darren Carroll (Guild International Representative)

WAGES

The term of the contract is for three years, through February 1, 2016. There will be no wage increase or bonus payments in 2013. Effective February 1, 2014 (approximately 8 months from now) all staff will receive a 1.5 percent across-the-board wage increase. In addition, effective February 1, 2015, all staff will receive a lump-sum bonus equal to 1.5 percent of annual pay.

RETIREMENT

We remain at the status quo. The 401(k) company match remains at 50 percent of the first 4 percent of employee contributions. The “me too” provision that requires a reinstatement of pension accruals for Guild employees if the company resumes them for unaffiliated employees will become a permanent part of the contract agreement.

MEDICAL

In bargaining, the company initially demanded complete control to set and change all medical premium shares between employees and the company. Instead, we agreed to the following limits:

The company will be able change current employer/company premium shares, if necessary, but only up to certain caps. For employee-only coverage, the premium share may change from the current 15 percent employee/85 percent company share, up to 20/80, but not more than that. For dependent coverage, the share may move from the current 30 percent employee/70 percent company share, up to 35/65, but not beyond that in 2014 and 2015. In addition, the current “spousal surcharge" of $100 will be reduced to $75 in 2014 and capped at that level for 2015.

INCENTIVES

In bargaining, the company initially demanded the right to assume control of all incentive payments in the Advertising and Circulation departments, and to add, reduce, or eliminate them at its own discretion. Instead, we agreed to create a set of guaranteed incentive pools, which would be based on the total amount of at-goal incentive currently available to all Guild staff in a given classification or work area. While the company will have some flexibility to vary at-goal incentive payments among different jobs and positions, the total minimum amount of at-goal incentive available in the pool must remain the same. There can be no reduction below the average total amount of at-goal incentive money available to Guild members as of right now.

HOME DELIVERY

We agreed to major changes that will allow the company to transfer a certain amount of Home Delivery work to a limited number of independent, third-party dealerships and to replace a limited number District Adviser positions with lower-paid positions. In exchange, the company agreed to a severance package providing up to 26 weeks of pay and a 50 percent subsidy for 12 months of COBRA medical coverage for any Home Delivery staff laid off voluntarily or involuntarily over the life of the agreement. Currently there are 18 districts in Home Delivery. The total number of districts that the company can mandate for conversion to dealerships is capped at 2 per year, up to a total of 6 over the life of the agreement. All staff positions in the districts not converted to dealerships will remain Guild jobs.

SENIORITY

In one of our last and most difficult decisions in the course of bargaining, we reluctantly agreed to the creation of limited number new job classifications in the News department that are specific to the Sports sub-department. We agreed to the new classifications of:

Sports Columnist Sports Desk Editor Sports Copy Editor Sports Reporter Sports Zone Reporter Sports News Resident

The company did agree to withdraw its proposals to create the classifications of Sports Page Designer and Sports News Assistant.

OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES

The company withdrew its proposal to require prior permission or notification for outside activities and we will retain current language.

JURISDICTION AND NEW MEDIA

In the News, Advertising, and Marketing departments, we agreed to a set of side agreements that will allow a limited sharing of work between Guild and unaffiliated staff. The repeated plea of the company was for flexibility that would allow them to respond to short-term and evolving needs, and that they had no long-term designs to reduce Guild staff per se. However, they came in demanding the complete and total elimination of all jurisdictional boundaries between Guild and unaffiliated work. We have tried to work with them regarding their stated needs, while retaining appropriate protections for our people. Because of the different nature of the work and staffing levels in different departments, we tried to come up with formulas appropriate to the specific work area, not just to protect current and future Guild staff, but to enhance the opportunities of Guild members to add new online-related skills and perform online related work:

In Ad Graphics, Creative Services, and Ad Sales Support, we have agreements on specific staffing ratios that will keep in place the current ratio of Guild and unaffiliated staff. Unaffiliated staff may freely share in print work. However, Guild staff will also share in online work, and regardless of the change in the relative balance between total print and total online work, the relative staffing levels must remain the same. Guild staff will receive the necessary and appropriate training to allow them the perform any needed share of online work.

In Ad Publications, we agreed that unaffiliated staff may contribute up to 10 percent of content in any two-month period, if needed, but no more than that.

In Ad Sales, we agreed to allow unaffiliated online sales reps to sell a certain amount of print advertising, as long as it does not exceed 10 percent of total print ad dollar volume in any two-month period. Unaffiliated reps may retain new accounts that they prospect, and a limited number of print accounts may be transferred to online reps, with offsets for any negatively affected Guild print staff. Print reps will receive additional training to allow them to become more effective in selling online products without necessarily needing to rely on a separate online rep.

In the News department, a limited number of unaffiliated digital staff will be eligible to regularly work on print products. The total number of such staff will be capped at a 10 percent ratio to the total number of Guild News staff, and none of them can spend more than 50 percent of their total work time on print-related work. Other digital staff may occasionally and irregularly provide content for print products, provided it never totals more than 2 percent of the total amount of print news content over the course of a month. Conversely, the company’s stated intention is to continue to shift online work to Guild staff, through such arrangements as the “Visiting Producer” program, and to rely on Guild staff for the production of the bulk of online content.

EXPENSES

The company agreed to commit to continue to pay 50 percent of the parking cost for employees required to bring their vehicles to the Denny location for work, for as long as they retain ownership of the main parking lot at Fairview and Denny.

Mileage expenses will continue to paid at the IRS rate for all staff.

TRANSIT PASS

The company will double its matching contribution to employees ORCA transit account, to $100 twice annually.

PHOTOGRAPHERS’ EQUIPMENT

The company agreed to broaden the protections for photographers in the event they have personal equipment damaged or stolen while on assignment, and also agreed to a cashout severance provision, in the event photographers are laid off with an outstanding balance still owed to them under the equipment purchase reimbursement plan.

COMMISSION SALES

The company will be changing the base commission rate for all product types to a uniform 10 percent. This will be subject to the three-month notification provision of the Commission Sales agreement, and will not take place before September 1.

COMPOSING SHARED JURISDICTION

We continue to work on a modified version of the Shared Jurisdiction side agreement that provides for the sharing of work between the Guild main unit and the Composing unit. This is a three-party agreement involving the two union units and the Times. From the Guild side the major change in the agreement would be to add some functions of the Operations department to work that could be shared between the two units. The Composing contract remains under negotiation, and we expect to complete agreement on the Shared Jurisdiction Agreement when we complete bargaining on the new Composing contract.

To submit a question or comment, 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 May 17, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.