Bargaining Update: Talks continue between Guild and News on many issues

The Buffalo Newspaper Guild and The News continue to negotiate over a range of topics.

Last week, The Guild bargaining team presented a package of Guild proposals and responses to News proposals intended to bring resolution to 11 issues, including standardizing trial periods for new members, shifting to a calendar-year basis for calculating vacation, and creating a collaborative forum to improve the efficiency of the Classified department. It was met with a counter-offer by The News that will lead to further discussion and negotiation.

In the meantime, The News has withdrawn a number of proposals, such as giving management the ability to enact disciplinary demotions, and paying Guild employees who take a different position after their jobs are eliminated the pay rate of their new, lower classification. The News also has withdrawn proposals to reduce sick days and place a stricter limit on family care leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Among other items, the parties also are working on a concept to codify, as a template for future situations, the terms of the outside media agreement for Guild employees – along the lines of the agreement known informally as the Bucky-Sully agreement approved last year. The Guild has also reviewed an amended News policy that will impose stronger language on the timely filing of employee expense reports.

Discussions continue regarding several newsroom issues, including the potential creation of a new position known as News Aides, as well as News proposals to allow work produced by non-employees for digital products to be used in print, and giving management greater ability to review situations when permission was previously granted for an outside activity, but a potential conflict of interest arises.

The News and Guild also continue to talk about increasing the amount of hours a part-time employee can work annually without receiving medical coverage, the Guild proposal to provide floats to part-timers, and allowing them continuing access to the Section 125 Plan.

The parties appear close on some issues. Others have still yet to be explored, including The News’ proposal to cap its annual increases in health insurance costs at 5 percent, while reaping the savings should the annual cost of insurance drop. The News also says it intends to present a proposal for a cellphone stipend instead of meeting the contractual requirement to supply necessary working equipment.

Negotiation of wages customarily comes at the end of bargaining, so there has been no discussion yet on that key issue.

The health insurance issue could soon move off the back burner if, as management expects, a broker hired by The News this week delivers bids from health insurance companies for different kinds of coverage. Besides the major local insurance providers, The Guild asked management to also seek a bid from United Furniture Workers Insurance Fund, administered by a division of the Communications Workers of America, which has long provided insurance under various CWA contracts.

Negotiations are expected to resume Monday.