NEGOTIATIONS MAKE PROGRESS BUT BIG ISSUES REMAIN ON THE TABLE On Monday, your Guild bargaining team and company representatives held the second meeting in negotiations for a new Guild contract at the Herald-Republic. The two sides exchanged new counterproposals, and we reached tentative agreements on several different provisions. Additionally, in an effort to narrow the focus of bargaining, both sides withdrew some proposals. However, most of the remaining issues are big ones: pay, medical cost, furloughs, and the removal of some employees from coverage under Guild contract.
In the area of vacation administration, the company had proposed to shorten the annual selection period by a month, so that it would run from January 1 to February 28. The Guild counter-proposed to have it run from January 1 to March 15, and the company agreed.
The company had also proposed that any employee giving less than two weeks notice when quitting would forfeit all accrued vacation pay. The Guild counter-proposed that they only lose vacation pay up to a maximum of two weeks, and receive credit for however much notice they actually gave. (For example, if someone gave only one week of notice, they would lose one week of pay.) The company agreed to this counter-proposal.
The company agreed to the Guild proposal to add language covering safe conditions in the workplace, including provisions requiring ergonomic evaluations of equipment and workstations. They also agreed to our proposal to regularly report available sick time on employee pay stubs.
In order to focus on the key economic issues, the Guild withdrew its proposals on severance pay, holiday compensation, vacation accrual, 401(k) contribution, and mileage compensation. The company withdrew its proposals to change scheduling language.
MAJOR ISSUES STILL OPEN
Pay is the single biggest issue and we are still quite far apart. The Guild submitted a modified wage proposal to the company, providing for a four-year contract, as requested by the company, and calling for annual raises of 2.5 percent, 2 percent, 1.5 percent, and 1.5 percent over the four-year term. In addition we counter-proposed to the company, conditional on acceptance of our wage proposal, a provision allowing for the option of 5 days of furlough over the term of the agreement, with a maximum of 2 days in any one year. The furlough could only be triggered on a "me too" basis, if the company required furlough of its management employees as well.
The company made a small move from its original proposal of a four-year wage freeze, and put forward a modified proposal calling for a freeze of 3 years, with a 1 percent raise in the fourth year.
The company is standing by its proposal to raise the employee contribution for medical insurance from 25 to 30 percent for employee coverage, and from 35 to 40 percent for family coverage.
The company is also standing by its proposal to remove circulation department District Managers from the bargaining unit, and to make them "at will" or "exempt" employees. This would eliminate all contract protections for the group, including those covering seniority, pay, benefits, and discipline, and significantly erode the boundaries of the Guild unit as a whole.
Several other issues remain on the table, but these seem to be the biggest, based on our respective positions and what we have heard from Guild members about their priorities. We feel positive about the areas where we have been able to find agreement with the company so far, and hope to make progress on narrowing the distance between our positions at the next meeting.
The next bargaining session is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Dec 7 at 10 a.m.
Present for the Guild: Marcus Michelson, Mai Hoang, Darryl Sclater.
Present for the Herald-Republic: Maria Barajas, Rick Oram.
To submit a question or comment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190, or contact one of the Guild bargaining committee members.