Posts filed under BARGAINING

Company Brings Economic Proposal -- Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #11

Your Guild bargaining team met with the company yesterday and today. The most significant development of today’s session was a first look at the company’s core economic proposal. The company’s proposal would involve a three-year contract running from February 1, 2013 through January 31, 2016. There would be no wage increases during the first two years of the contract.

However, effective February 1, 2014 (approximately ten months from now), each Guild employee would receive a one-time lump-sum bonus payment equal to one percent of his or her straight-time pay for the previous year.

After that, effective February 1, 2015, the company would increase total straight-time wages in the Guild unit by an overall average of one percent. However, the one-percent increase in total wages would not be distributed evenly among all employees. It would be in the form of a budget pool for merit pay increases, to be individually calculated and distributed entirely at the company’s discretion. Consequently, any individual employee might receive a wage increase of more than one percent, less than one percent, or zero.

The company made its economic proposal contingent on acceptance by the Guild of all other company proposals currently on the table. These include proposals to allow unaffiliated online staff to perform traditional Guild newsroom work creating and contributing to the print edition of the paper (up to a maximum of fifteen percent of the total work) and the creation of a “Sports Silo” for newsroom job classifications and seniority. In Sales and Marketing, they include proposals to allow unaffiliated online sales staff to sell print advertising (up to a maximum of fifteen percent of total print ad dollars), assumption by the company of complete control over all advertising incentive plans (and the ability to increase, reduce, or eliminate them at will), the elimination of all set rates for commission-only sales, and the insertion into the contract of a “re-opener” agreement that would allow the company to revisit all terms of the contract relating to Sales and Marketing for re-bargaining and possible further change at a later date. The company is also sticking with its proposal to eliminate all set employer/employee splits for medical premiums, and to institute a strictly “me too” policy on the rates relative to unaffiliated staff.

On the plus side the company withdrew its proposal to introduce a new, lower rate for mileage expense compensation, and agreed to continue using the standard IRS mileage rate.

In another positive development, we received an encouraging response to our proposal on the Photographers’ Equipment Plan, in which the company indicated a willingness to pay out the remaining balance on any photographer’s existing equipment-reimbursement schedule, in the event the photographer is involuntarily laid off.

An additional qualification for the economic proposal was resolution of a plan to reduce costs in the Home Delivery department, possibly via some form of fully or partially outsourced dealership model. Based in part on feedback from the Guild side, the company team is revisiting their original proposal. We anticipate getting additional details in tomorrow’s session.

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

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

The Guild's next meeting with the company will be tomorrow Thursday, April 11.

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 April 10, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

Company Moves A Bit on Jurisdiction Issues - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #10

Our two days of meetings with the company last week focused primarily on the issue of sharing work between Guild members and unaffiliated online staff. The company brought forward several new proposals aimed at changing our existing agreements, which currently do not permit the Guild to have jurisdiction over online work, but also do not allow unaffiliated staff to perform Guild print-related work. The company wants to keep the restrictions on the Guild in place, but change the second part, and permit unaffiliated staff to do a certain amount of Guild work in both the news and advertising and marketing departments. The previous proposals from the company in this area were very sweeping, and would essentially have provided the company with a blank check in terms of re-assigning work at will. The new proposals were encouraging because they represented a significant narrowing of the company’s demands. They were more carefully focused on different areas of work, and contained some specific limitations that would be helpful in protecting individual jobs and ensuring the access of Guild members to specific kinds of work.

We are not sure yet if these proposals, either individually or collectively, will represent a path to a mutually beneficial agreement with the company. Some parts of the proposals are definitely good. Others will need quite a bit more work. The Guild team will be looking at these proposals very carefully to see what will work and what won’t, and where we can possibly build on and improve them. One area of particular concern is the amount of content unaffiliated online staff might be able to contribute to the print edition of the paper, which still appears to be excessive under the company proposal.

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 will be Tuesday, April 9.

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 March 29, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

New Guild Proposals on Pension, Wages, Online Work - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #9

Yesterday’s bargaining session consisted primarily of the Guild making proposals and counterproposals to the company. The major items we brought forward were in the area of pay and pension, and performance of online work in the news and sales and marketing departments. We reluctantly withdrew our proposal to resume accrual of benefits on the defined benefit pension plan. After looking carefully at the funding level of the plan and the existing obligations for current benefits, we concluded that resuming accrual on the plan simply does not look practical at this time. However, we proposed to continue the agreement that places a Guild representative on the pension board and investment committee, and that would require the Times to resume accrual of benefits on the Guild plan if accrual is restored on the unaffiliated plan.

While withdrawing our pension proposal, we put forward a new proposal to increase the company matching 401(k) contribution, and also presented our basic wage proposal. For the 401(k) we proposed increasing the match from 50 cents on the dollar to dollar-for-dollar, up to the first 4 percent of pay, effectively doubling the company contribution. On wages, we proposed 3 percent annual increases over a three-year term (or a total of 9 percent over three years). We calculated that after three years, given the need to make up the significant lost value of the pension, this would place overall compensation just slightly ahead of where it had been prior to the concessions that began in 2009.

We also attempted to address the company’s ostensible concerns about giving Guild members more online work, by offering a counterproposal that would extend agreements that prevent the Guild from claiming jurisdiction over such work. The natural evolution of the newspaper business argues for adding more online work to the jobs of current Guild members, in order to build on their existing skills, experience, and customer relationships. We think it would be enormously counterproductive, and even self-destructive, for the company to refuse to assign increasing amounts of online work to Guild members. While we would welcome having online work within the Guild’s jurisdiction, and don’t understand the company’s objections to expanding the scope of the bargaining unit, we are willing to make an extended commitment to leaving online assignments at the company’s discretion, because we feel the work can and will flow naturally to Guild members. However, because the Times continues to want to maintain a jurisdictional “wall” around online work, our counterproposal would keep in place the existing protections that prevent unaffiliated online staff from doing traditional Guild work.

Additionally, we proposed our own updated list of excluded positions and a quarterly rather than half-yearly transit subsidy. On expenses, we withdrew our proposal for full compensation for parking at the Denny location, and proposed instead to guarantee the current practice of compensation for 50 percent of cost.

We had some additional discussion with the company team about the needs, goals, and timetables surrounding their very aggressive cost-cutting plan for the Home Delivery department, but we did not make any counterproposal.

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 will be Tuesday, Mar. 19.

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 March 6, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

First Glimpse of Company Proposal for Home Delivery -- Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #8

On Thursday the company presented us with a first outline of their “continued employee model” plan for cost-savings in the Home Delivery department. The plan consisted of wage cuts, changes to incentives and goals, new district assignment arrangements, and a number of other changes. There was no breakdown of the specific cost-savings associated with the different elements of the plan. We will be reviewing these carefully before talking further with the company about the plan, or possible alternatives, at our next meeting. The company also continued to dangle their “Agency Option” as well, which would effectively involve outsourcing the entire Home Delivery department. Clearly, any move to substantially reduce costs in Home Delivery will have an enormous impact on Guild staff, as well as on the quality of service provided to the paper’s vital home-delivery subscribers. Of the 18 District Advisers currently working in Home Delivery, twelve have more than 30 years of service with the company. Of 24 Assistant District Advisers, half have more than 20 years of service, and none has less than 15. All four of the Zone Clerks in the department have more than 20 years of service. It is the Guild’s hope and expectation that any cost-savings plan will respect, honor, and reward the service and contribution to the company by these long-standing employees. Further, we are deeply concerned that it not endanger the Seattle Times’ long-standing relationships with its loyal but highly demanding subscribers, on whom we are all ever-increasingly dependent in the evolving world of newspaper economics.

Later in the session, we spent some time reviewing the numerous changes and additions the company is proposing to make to the list of “excluded positions” (specified non-Guild staff) attached to the front of contract. As in past contract negotiations, we noted that the volume of positions seemed excessive and redundant (“bloated” is another term that comes to mind). We anticipate counter-proposing a more modest and appropriate list.

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 Tuesday, Mar. 5.

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 February 24, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

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 ao37082@gmail.com, 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.

Two Tales Of a Proposal - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #6

Yesterday’s bargaining session started out focused on the overlap between online and print work in advertising sales, sales support, and graphics. It ended with a return to the very tough issue of big cuts in the Home Delivery department. In between, the company dropped on the table a proposal to sweep away the Guild’s jurisdiction in the newsroom. In the interest of trying to zero in on the company’s actual day-to-day needs in sales and marketing, we shared feedback that Guild members had provided in last week’s unit meetings. As we mentioned in earlier bulletins, the company is insisting on the need for a “two-way door” between print and online. Currently we have an agreement that allows Guild print reps to sell online ads as part of bundled sales, but preserves print sales exclusively for Guild members.

Nothing in the current agreement prevents the company from assigning more online sales and sales support work to Guild members. When we reminded the company team of this, they returned repeatedly to emphasizing the “risk” to the company of putting additional work in the hands of Guild members or adding new members to the bargaining unit; they also reiterated their strong desire to be as “unrestricted” by bargaining agreements as much as possible.

The company demonstrated this desire later in the session, when they put on the table a proposal explicitly eliminating Guild jurisdiction over “traditional bargaining unit work” in the News Department; i.e., the print edition of the Seattle Times. The proposal would allow unaffiliated employees in the News Department to perform any work currently performed by Guild employees. The company team indicated that they will be putting forward a proposal with similar terms applying to the advertising department.

Based on the actual language of the proposal on the table, we have to respectfully disagree with the way it is being characterized in company communications:

    (1) The company has said that they “have proposed a long-lasting agreement that would assure the Guild a more substantial role in the growing amount of digital reporting, editing and news design we are doing.” In fact, what the company has proposed does not “assure” the Guild or individual Guild members of anything. Assignment of all online work will remain entirely and completely at the company’s discretion, to be assigned to or taken away from Guild members entirely as the company sees fit. Further, under the proposal, the same would also now apply to print work.

    (2) The company has said that their proposal “eliminates the need to set up redundant and inefficient systems.” There is not and never has been any “need” for the company to set up any such systems. If they are indeed “redundant and inefficient,” it is because of the company’s choice to set them up that way. There is nothing that has prevented the company from assigning online work to Guild members, or hiring new online staff into Guild positions. The company has explicitly and deliberately chosen not to do so, thereby putting in place and maintaining those systems they now acknowledge to be “redundant and inefficient.”

    (3) The company has said that they have proposed that unaffiliated staff “be able to do some work that ends up in print” and “to let some print and digital sales and sales support work flow more freely.” In actuality, there is no “some” in any company proposal thus far. What they have actually proposed is complete elimination of all restrictions on unaffiliated staff performing any and all “traditional bargaining unit work.”

It may well be that the company’s intentions and goals are more limited than the actual proposals they have presented thus far. If so, we may be able to carefully craft an agreement that meets clearly defined business needs. But it is hard to see where the current agreement is at fault, at least as applied by the Guild. Guild members already contribute enormously to the company’s success in new media and online ad sales. Nothing in our current longstanding agreement has impeded what we’ve accomplished thus far (including the winning of a Pulitzer for breaking news) or stands in the way of our contributing more in the future. The company needs only to let us do the work, without demanding that we whittle away our job protections in exchange.

With respect to Home Delivery, we received a few more details on the company’s cost numbers and cost-saving goals. The case for the excessive cost of Guild staff still seems to us quite thin, and we will be seeking additional sources of comparative cost information. Given this, the devastating cuts the company is demanding seem very arbitrary. We expect a lot more tough discussion and careful review of the numbers on this major bargaining issue.

Correction: In Bulletin #5, we stated that both the Guild and the company “acknowledged that major cuts in Home Delivery, either in the Guild area or anywhere else, would inevitably have a negative impact on customer satisfaction, and potentially on circulation and revenue.” The company told us yesterday that while they agreed that cuts would indeed negatively affect customer satisfaction, they did not believe that this would threaten circulation or revenue. It is their conclusion, based on comparisons with other newspapers, that the Seattle Times can provide substantially lower quality home delivery service without losing additional print subscribers.

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 meetings with the company will be Tuesday, Feb. 19 and Thursday, Feb. 21.

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 February 8, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

Cutting To the Chase In Home Delivery - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #5

We spent most of yesterday’s bargaining session talking about the company’s desire to make radical changes in the Home Delivery department. The company has told us that their overall home delivery cost is 20 to 25 percent higher than at comparable newspapers. The estimate provided to us has varied. We are having some difficulty confirming and breaking down the cost figures, as they derive from various surveys provided to the company by various consultants. While the sources are said to be comparable, we don’t have any detail on how many different newspapers were surveyed, where they were located, and whether they included both union and non-union employers.

Beyond this, it is important to note that Guild-represented employees represent only a small part of total Home Delivery cost. The Guild represents “field staff” who oversee and support the independent carriers who actually deliver newspapers to customers’ homes. Guild-represented field staff comprise only about one-sixth of total Home Delivery costs at the Times. The other five-sixth’s of total cost comes from things like warehouse rentals, warehouse staff, management, and payments to the independent carriers. What we have not been able to establish is whether or not the already small portion of costs represented by Guild employees—the “field staff” portion of the operation—appears to be significantly out of line compared to other newspapers. The sources on which the Times is relying apparently do not provide a breakdown to that level of detail. So we really don’t know if it is the Guild share of costs or other costs that are contributing too much to the overall “20 to 25 percent” of excess costs.

Nevertheless, the company has clearly indicated that the cost of Guild-represented field staff is an area where they want to save money. To do that, they suggested moving to what is sometimes referred to as an “agency” or “dealership” model for Home Delivery. Effectively, this is a form of outsourcing. As you probably will not be surprised to hear, Guild members in Home Delivery indicated a clear preference for keeping their jobs and work within the company, and remaining company employees with wages and benefits under the Guild contract. They did not indicate a desire to see their jobs outsourced.

Having settled that point, we have moved on to discussions with the company regarding the if, how, and when of finding further savings under an “employee-based” field staff model: we are trying to establish if their expectation of savings is reasonable (based on the cost of “our” field staff, as opposed to their other costs); how any savings might be implemented, in terms of the impact on jobs and benefits; and when any possible changes might be implemented, in terms of a larger plan with a longer time frame affecting all the other parts of the Home Delivery operation as well.

It is worth pointing out that the Home Delivery department has been subjected to sustained workforce and hours reductions over the last several years, including most recently the elimination of seven Assistant District Adviser positions just last month. We estimate this latest reduction by itself reduced the cost of the Guild field staff operation by 6 to 7 percent, in terms of wages and benefits.

While the company has said that they are seeking input from the Guild on how to proceed, they have not been terribly clear about their priorities in terms of the effects on operations and customer service. Both sides at the table have acknowledged that major cuts in Home Delivery, either in the Guild area or anywhere else, would inevitably have a negative impact on customer satisfaction, and potentially on circulation and revenue. It would seem to be best to phase in any changes over time so as to minimize any disruption of service and revenue. Going forward, what we hope to be able to find is some larger Home Delivery model that is potentially less expensive, but that minimizes disruption not just for customers, but also for Guild members, and in fact accomplishes the one at least in part by accomplishing the other.

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 meetings with the company is 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 February 6, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

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.

Company Adds Detail On Sweeping Proposals - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #3

Tuesday’s meeting between the Guild bargaining team and the company continued to focus on company proposals. In some areas the company team brought forward the first details regarding specific changes they are seeking. In other areas they provided additional information and reasons for their stated goals, or went back to clarify their original proposal. The Guild bargaining team continued to press for the specific reasons behind the changes the company wants: What is the particular problem that a change is intended to fix? How will this make for a better business operation? How will it save the company money? Why can’t the same goals be accomplished under the existing language of the contract?

As you might imagine, the responses we received varied a great deal in both detail and persuasiveness. The items listed below cover the major topics. We are presenting them here mainly to outline our understanding of the company’s position. We have not agreed to anything, and continue to have questions and concerns about all of them.

Outside activities The company team let us know that they were reconsidering the use of the word “approval” with regard to outside activities, indicating that some form of prior notification might be sufficient. However, they did not present any modified language, so we don’t know if they have in mind something that is materially or practically different from prior approval.

Online/print newsroom jurisdiction Based on the examples provided, the company’s vision of shared print and online work in the newsroom appears to involve two main “flows.” In the main online-to-print-side “flow,” the Guild desk unit would assume more responsibility for editing and managing the online platform, similar to what is already taking place through the “visiting producer” program. (Nothing in the contract prevents this from happening now, as the “visiting producer” program itself shows). In the main print-to-online-side “flow,” the company wants to permit the use in the print edition of written and graphic material created by online, non-Guild employees. This is not currently permitted by the contract, and would constitute a major change in jurisdiction.

Home delivery changes The company added significant detail to their plans for Home Delivery. After reviewing their comparison of costs at other papers, the company team gave us a revised savings goal. It is now in the area of 20 percent of total cost, as opposed to the 25 percent previously estimated. We also received some numbers on the total cost of the Home Delivery operation. However, we did not receive any comparison for the cost of the specific parts of the operation performed by Guild staff, so we don’t yet know exactly how much of the company’s higher overall cost level can be identified as “our share.”

In considering ways to bring down Home Delivery costs, the company is focused on two broad options. One is a slimmed-down version of the current system, in which the overall number of Guild Home Delivery staff would likely be reduced but not eliminated. The other option is a so-called “agency” or “dealership” model, in which the Home Delivery operation would be sub-contracted to a number of non-employee dealers, who would then sub-contract their own teams of newspaper dealers. This would effectively eliminate all Guild jobs in Home Delivery (approximately 45 to 50 positions). The company team emphasized that they have not committed themselves to either model, but are evaluating both based on total overall cost.

Incentive programs Currently we have language in the contract that protects the minimum amount of incentive money available for those positions that have incentives as part of their compensation. The company has proposed to strike that language, and assume total control of all forms of incentive pay. The company team confirmed that while they might increase incentives for some positions, they would likely also reduce or eliminate them for others. This is clearly of concern because the current wage scales for many positions have been premised on the existence of a minimum level of incentive compensation, and we don’t know how much, if any, of the lost incentive would be made up in the form of regular pay.

Seniority The company wants more control to designate people for layoff out of seniority order. The stated goal is “to protect and retain current skills, abilities, and relevant experience.” As with some of their other proposals, they outlined a number of ways they might go about this: an exception list, which would set aside a certain number or percentage of people in each classification; a sub-division of major classifications into sub-classes (silos) each of which would be considered a separate layoff category; or the use of a purely internal evaluation process, which would not be subject to grievance or arbitration by the affected individuals.

All of these proposals involve major changes with enormous implications for many different individuals and the Guild unit as a whole. Many of them strike directly at the fundamental protections of our union contract. Your bargaining team is actively interested in your feedback on any and all of them. While we hope to find common ground and to forge real solutions with the company, we are committed to protecting and advancing the core interests of all our fellow Guild members. Please share your voice.

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, Janice Vallin.

We will meet again with the company today, Thursday, Jan. 24.

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 24, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.

More Info, More Tension - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #2

The Guild met with the company yesterday in our second bargaining session as part of negotiations for a new contract. The discussion remained courteous on both sides, although it became quite tense at times. We quickly identified a number of areas where the two sides are significantly far apart, both in terms of specific proposals and general approach. Some of our exchanges were very helpful, but we anticipate the need for a lot of hard work and difficult discussions going forward. Our longest, widest-ranging, and most contentious discussion concerned the company’s future intentions with regard to the merging or sharing of print and online work in the news, advertising, and marketing departments. Ad, circulation, and corporate marketing are Guild areas of work, while online marketing is not. In the advertising and news departments, there is what might be called a “one-way door” between print and online: Guild news staff may do both print and online work, but unaffiliated online staff may only perform online work; similarly, Guild advertising reps may sell both print and online ad products, but unaffiliated staff may only sell online ads. These arrangements are based on existing agreements with the company, and already represent a significant compromise on the part of the Guild.

What the company appears to want is to the ability to convert the current “one-way” door into a “two-way” door, and allow for the open and various assignment of print, online, and marketing work to either Guild or unaffiliated staff. We have to emphasize that we can only talk about what the company “appears to want” because very few details or examples have been provided to us, apart from an expressed desire to waive all current restrictions. We pressed the company team for actual examples of real business needs behind the proposal, and a substantive outline of how they anticipated reassigning work. We emphasized that it was incredibly difficult to evaluate and respond to this proposal without a better sense of the company’s practical intentions. The company team indicated that they would bring more information to our next meeting.

The company did provide additional details regarding some of its other proposals:

• Rehire List: Company proposes language to distinguish between permanent and temporary positions when an individual is recalled after being laid off. (Article 6) • Vacation Cash Out: Because of IRS regulations, the company proposes to eliminate the option for part-time employees to cash out vacation. (Article 15) • Mileage Expense: Company proposes to replace IRS rate with a rate of $0.33 per mile, plus a local fuel cost formula. Based on current calculations, this rate would be $0.51 per mile versus the IRS rate of $0.55 per mile. (Article 19) • Outside Activities: Company wants to require prior management approval with respect to work for “any other media outlet.” (Article 22) • Incentives: Company proposes to eliminate the current commitment “not to reduce the potential incentive pay available to advertising and circulation employees under monthly and quarterly incentive plans.” (Article 8.4.1) Also proposes to eliminate the set formula for Commission Sales staff. (Commission Sales Agreement)

Obviously the bargaining committee wants to ask a lot more questions about all of these proposals, in terms of what they will mean if put into actual practice, particularly the implications surrounding outside activities and incentives.

The company also gave us an initial reaction to the Guild’s opening proposal. In some areas, such as incentive goals, training, and transit subsidy, the company team asked a number of questions and made suggestions for more discussion. In others, the reaction was essentially negative. Receiving a negative response were our proposals to guarantee the insurance premium split on medical coverage for dependents (by setting it at 70/30 employer/employee, and eliminating the spousal surcharge), to guarantee dental coverage on a 50/50 basis, and to guarantee a minimum weekly schedule of 30 hours for most positions. Instead, the company reiterated its own proposal to place all medical and dental benefits on a “me too” basis relative to those offered to unaffiliated employees. Regarding our proposal for reimbursement of the full cost of parking at the Denny location for employees required to use their personal vehicles for job duties, the company countered that the current 50% reimbursement seemed a reasonable split of the job-related and commuting costs.

The company’s initial reaction to our proposal to restart the pension was also negative. The company stated that there are significant ongoing costs related to simply maintaining the current earned benefits, let alone adding new benefits. We will be looking at more numbers to confirm the current status and cost of the plan.

We did not have an opportunity to discuss the company’s intentions regarding Home Delivery, beyond the fact that it will be seeking significant cost savings in the department.

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, Janice Vallin

The Guild's next meetings with the company will be Tuesday, Jan. 22, and Thursday, Jan. 24.

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 11, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.