Informational Meetings: Get a status report about negotiations at Oct. 16 sessions

October 9, 2014 — Contract negotiations resumed Monday with The News telling The Guild that the company wanted a two-year deal with no raises.

News management said it would consider offering cash bonuses, but only in return for unspecified concessions.

The Guild bargaining team countered that members are working harder than ever, have received only a 1 percent raise since 2009, and have responded repeatedly to company efforts to cut costs.

On a positive note, The News reported that Independent Health is the winning bidder among three health insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield and Univera were the others — to provide coverage to employees next year.

Independent Health’s bid will result in health insurance rates increasing by only .9 percent for the Guild base health plans in 2015.

The small increase reduces the pressure over this bargaining issue. However, there are other health insurance proposals we’re dealing with, including the company seeking our approval to switch to a self-funded health insurance plan in 2016.

The Guild and The News have made progress on the potential creation of a new position in the newsroom known as News Aides, although some details still need to be worked out. The parties have discussed creating the position as a pilot project that will require renegotiation after two years.

However, the future of the Classified department remains unresolved. A News proposal calls for subcontracting the work or reducing the department’s costs.

These comprise some but not all of the many issues under discussion since bargaining began in June.

Now, it’s time to talk with you.

The Guild will hold two informational meetings at noon and 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16 in the first-floor auditorium. Members of The Guild bargaining team will be there to provide a status report, hear suggestions and answer questions. We strongly encourage all Guild members to attend.

Other issues include converting to a six-month probationary period for all new employees, shifting to a calendar-year basis for calculating vacation, amending a News policy to impose stronger language on the timely filing of expense reports, and giving management greater ability to review situations when permission was previously granted for an editorial employee’s outside activity, but a potential conflict of interest arises.

The News and Guild also continue to talk about increasing the hours a part-time employee can work annually without receiving medical coverage. The News also says it intends to present a proposal for a cellphone stipend.