June 2, 2015 — The Guild bargaining team on Monday presented a package proposal to The News that accepts its proposal for employees to begin paying a portion of medical insurance premiums in 2017. The proposed three-year deal would include raises in two years of a contract that runs through 2017, a one-time cash bonus and elimination of the 5 percent clause that establishes the employee’s share of premium increases after the contract expires.
This is the second proposal on The Guild bargaining team’s part that attempts to obtain an alternative arrangement for the clause.
Our first attempt last month sought to change the clause to make it less harmful financially if it ever took effect. The News was open to the concept, but only if Guild members agreed to pay 5 percent of health insurance premiums, starting in 2017, in addition to a variation of the 5 percent clause. The company placed a July 1 deadline to accept its latest offer, which also included a one-time bonus, but no raise, and enough health credits to buy the Guild base-option health plan in 2016.
To be sure, the company’s latest offer is unacceptable. But the Guild bargaining team believes that improvement or elimination of the clause remains a worthwhile goal that we have continued to pursue in our package proposal response to management.
It’s a complicated issue that requires careful consideration.
A provision in our contract allows The News to change how it allots health insurance credits if the contract is expired when a new plan year begins. Broadly speaking, in the event we are working without a contract, the employer’s maximum obligation is to increase credits by only 5 percent above the previous year, regardless of how much the premium has increased. Employees would be required to pay the rest of the increase, which would constitute a continual and massive pay cut of thousands of dollars if it took effect.
For all those reasons, the Guild bargaining committee thought it would be advisable to explore the potential for sharing health insurance premiums.
“We have made sacrifices over the years to maintain fully paid health insurance for our members. It was well worth it because this preserved employees’ standard of living,” said Guild President Henry Davis.
“Now, if premium-sharing is to become part of the discussion in bargaining, it will have to be accompanied by raises and changes to the clause. This is especially so when the company is profitable, and seeking our approval to move ahead with self-funded health insurance.”
The News has made more than $56 million during the five-year wage freeze.
“We need something our members will ratify,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, Guild mobilization efforts continue.
We are working with a local media buyer to conduct a public campaign with radio and television advertisements and we have brought our message to social media, by buying Facebook ads and posting videos on Facebook, YouTube and at http://www.buffaloguild.org.
We continue to leaflet public events and conduct sticker and balloon days in the workplace to remind us that we are all in this together.
All of which means you have an important role to play.
Take a moment soon and visit the Buffalo Newspaper Guild Facebook page. “Like” the page, if you haven’t already done so, then “share” at least one of the videos featuring testimonials from respected Guild members about the work they do and why a raise matters. There also soon will be a compilation video. Share them all.
So far, the videos feature reporters Dan Herbeck and Sandra Tan, music critic Jeff Miers, columnists Jerry Sullivan and Donn Esmonde, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Adam Zyglis, and accounts payable clerk Felice McMillion. More are coming, and each relays who we are and what we’re fighting for.
Please share these videos on Facebook as soon as you have a free moment. If you see our Facebook ads, like and share them. This is a fully protected job action and something you can easily do to help advance the bargaining.
The more these ads and videos are shared and liked, the more people see them. The more people see them, the more leverage we’ll have when it comes to launching future actions the Guild has in store to make sure management understands we’re serious about our needs and issues.
For those of you familiar with hashtags, please mention #WeAreTheNews.
The Buffalo Newspaper Guild is also on Twitter! Follow us @BuffaloGuild and encourage others to do the same.