Guild supports maintenance of health benefits, seeks wage increase

In recent contract negotiations, The Guild and The News verbally presented opening bargaining positions but have yet to trade official proposals. Negotiations are ramping up, however, which means we’ll be asking all Guild members to participate in upcoming mobilization efforts.

The company talked about a one-year contract extension in which the only issue is health insurance. One of the potential benefits of an extension is that it means a minimal set of bargaining issues.

Ice cream social Friday to mark our “wage freeze”

All Guild members are invited to enjoy some free ice cream from the Mr. Cool ice cream truck from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday as we prepare to ask The News to “melt the wage freeze” here at The News. We also ask all Guild members to wear stickers on Friday with the same message. Guild reps will hand out ice cream tickets outside on Scott Street. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. Please join us!

Under The News’ plan, we would agree to combine with all employees in a common insurance pool and transition to a cost-cutting self-funded insurance arrangement, probably in 2015. Our health coverage would remain largely the same for 2014, under the company plan.

But management said there is no money to give us a raise. While stressing the importance of a wage increase, the Guild was appreciative of the offer to maintain affordable health insurance, one of our key bargaining goals.

The Guild verbally voiced approval for joining the combined insurance pool but sought to bargain aspects of the self-insurance initiative, an idea the company appears to support.

The Guild also asked for a two-year contract. It doesn’t make sense to us to go back to full bargaining early next year, with all of its distractions, when everyone’s focus should be on increasing revenue, getting digital right and producing great journalism.

Finally, we asked for a 2 percent raise effective Aug. 1, 2013. We have gone five years with only a 1 percent increase. People are working harder than ever, having taken on additional duties in a downsized newspaper that’s attempting to expand its physical and digital product offerings. We understand the financial situation at The News and care deeply about the future of this newspaper. But folks also need to pay their bills. They have to put gas in the car and food on the table.

Contract talks are scheduled to resume on Tuesday. In the lead up to that bargaining session, the Guild is gearing up in-house mobilization activities to bring attention to our bargaining goals.