Guild responds to News package: Wages and Classified among unresolved issues

Dec. 8, 2014 — Contract talks continued last week on a slightly more positive note, but nothing has happened yet to indicate the parties are closer to agreement on some of the remaining key issues.

The News in November changed course by presenting a “package proposal” with no pay raise or bonus that would end negotiations with a deal that expires July 31, 2015.

The package withdraws some company proposals, such as changes to the Classified department, and includes measures management advanced during bargaining that it said would provide it with more flexibility, efficiency or savings.

The News at the last bargaining session on Dec. 1 said the Classified issue prompted the move to end bargaining.

Classified has been discussed since bargaining started, with The News initially wanting to outsource members’ work if changes were not made to the cost of running the department and the revenue it generates. The News in October pitched the idea of a new compensation system that relies more on commissions and less on base pay. The Guild proposed creating a collaborative forum to explore ways to improve efficiency.

We left the late October meeting with the impression that the company would next present a proposal for a new compensation system. Instead, management arrived with its package proposal

We know it’s too long to go without a pay raise, but does anyone really appreciate how long five years is?

We’ll help by providing a series of postcard-size reminders of what was happening in the world the last time we got a raise. Look for them in your mailboxes along with the monitor clips that hold them in place. The clips can be easily taped to the top of your computer monitor.

Keep in mind, there are six versions of these 2010 reminders so check out your neighbors’ postcards as well. And if that’s not enough to refresh your memory, we’ll follow next week with a series of postcards comparing consumer prices then and now.

And, finally, we’re asking Guild members to submit their favorite memories of 2010 and, who knows, maybe we’ll put it on a postcard. Give your ideas in person to Phil Fairbanks or at

that leaves Classified as it is, along with a contract that expires in less than a year. Until this point, management had put a two-year deal on the table.

News negotiators said they did not see potential for success in a collaborative forum because the idea lacked consequences or incentives on both sides to get a deal done.

The Guild on Dec. 1 reasserted the forum idea. This, in turn, reopened discussion on how to structure an arrangement that can succeed. It’s a positive move, but still leaves us with the challenge of figuring out how to get it done.The re-proposing of the Classified forum was part of a larger response to The News’ package. Our response also included:

  • Addressing several unresolved issues related to the creation of anew position known as News Aides, negotiated in response to management proposals for greater use of stringers and Guild employees in another pay classification to produce content at a lower cost. We proposed a salary of $820.16 per week.The News Aide agreement would be considered a pilot project that will expire unless it is renewed at the end of the next contract.
  • Creating a $60 per month cellphone stipend instead of providing employees with phones and phone service under the contractual requirement to supply necessary working equipment. Our proposal also calls for reimbursement of one-half the cost of a new phone every two years.
  • Calling for a two-year agreement with wage increases of 3 percent in each year.

The News objects to pay raises, saying advertising revenue and circulation continue to decline. Company negotiators voice concerns about the financial consequences if the paper were to lose a major advertiser, and contend profits have remained steady in recent years because of reductions in expenses. The Guild bargaining team makes the following points:

  • Guild members see that The News is spending money, but just not on them. They see that News profits are lower, but the company is still profitable. From 2010 through 2013 — four of the five years during which we have not received a raise — The News earned operating profits of $46.06 million and net profits of $21.6 million, according to figures supplied annually to employees by The News. That doesn’t include the profit projected for 2014.
  • Our members have gone nearly five years without a pay raise, and that’s enough, especially with inflation eating away at their wages every year. Moreover, based on the total payroll for Guild employees, every 1 percent increase in pay amounts to a little more than $92,000.
  • The News saw relief in health insurance rates for 2015, with premiums increasing by only 0.2 percent. And while health insurance premiums have risen over the last decade, the total cost of providing that insurance to The Guild has remained steady because of the decline in the number of full-time employees.
  • Guild members have repeatedly made changes over the years to give the company more flexibility and save money.There are far fewer employees, but the work has not gone away.

Guild members’ work during the recent storm represents the professionalism and dedication they bring to the newspaper each day. They want the company to recognize their contributions.

“Our members want a fair contract,” said Guild President Henry Davis. “And a fair contract includes a raise.”