On Saturday, your Guild bargaining team and company representatives reached a tentative agreement on a new Guild contract at the Herald-Republic. The term of the contract is for four years, running from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2017. The bargaining team was disappointed that the company would only agree to wage increases in the last two years of the contract, and these increases are quite small. However, we regard it as positive that the company agreed to withdraw its proposal to increase the employee-paid share of health insurance premiums. The current share will not change, and is secured for the duration of the contract. The company also withdrew its proposal to remove circulation District Managers from the bargaining unit, so that they would no longer be covered by the contract. While the new proposed contract has only limited wage improvements, it also contains no major concessions or take-backs of existing pay and benefits. On balance, we believe it is a net positive agreement that will provide sustained security for Herald-Republic members over the next four years. We are recommending the agreement for approval. The following is a summary of the key elements of the new agreement:
The current pay scales will remain frozen this year and next year. Effective October 1, 2015, all wages and scales will increase by 0.5% across the board; effective October 1, 2016, wages and scales will increase by 1% across the board.
The current series of experience steps in each job classification will remain in place. Anyone who has been recently hired in any job classification and is not at the top step will continue to receive the appropriate step increase on their employment anniversary.
There will be no change in the current premium split for the term of the agreement. Employees will continue to pay 25% of the premium cost for their own insurance, and 35% of the cost for coverage of dependents.
SAFETY & ERGONOMICS
The company agreed to add a new section to the contract, providing a clear commitment to workplace health and safety, including ergonomic evaluation of work stations and equipment.
RECOGNITION & JURISDICTION
There will be no changes. Everyone currently covered by the contract will continue to be covered, including circulation District Managers.
COMMISSION SALES PLANS
We agreed to update the agreement covering commission sales plans, to provide for a specific set of tiered rates, as opposed to a single rate covering all products and sales.
The annual seniority-based vacation selection period will be shortened by two weeks. Instead of running from January 1 through March 31, it will run from January 1 through March 15, so that employees wanting to use vacation in April and May will have a bit more time to usefully make plans.
Also, employees providing less than two weeks notice when they voluntarily resign or quit will risk losing a proportional amount of accrued vacation time, which would otherwise be cashed out in a lump sum. For example, if an employee gave only a week's notice, he or she could be charged one week of vacation. If the employee gave no notice, he or she could lose a full two weeks of accrued vacation. The company's stated goal was to encourage individuals to always give at least two weeks notice, and had originally proposed that employees lose all accrued vacation time if they did not do so. This seemed excessive, and we agreed on a smaller penalty that was proportional to the amount of notice actually provided.
The company requested an option to require a limited amount of furlough during the term of the agreement. (They emphasized that this was only an option, to be triggered only if necessary, and that there was no current plan or desire on the part of the company to impose any furlough.) We agreed to allow them to impose a maximum of five (5) days of furlough over the entire four years of the agreement, with a maximum of two (2) days allowed in any one year. In addition, the option could only be triggered if an equal amount of furlough was required from managerial and unaffiliated employees.
Present for the Guild: Marcus Michelson, Mai Hoang, Darryl Sclater.
Present for the Herald-Republic: Maria Barajas, Rick Oram.
We will be scheduling a formal ratification vote within the next couple of weeks, and members will be provided further notice of time and place. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190, or contact one of the Guild bargaining committee members.