Wednesday, December 15, 2010

AP Staffers Protest Lack of a Contract With a Byline Boycott

Members of the News Media Guild, who have been working without a contract at the Associated Press since the end of November, announced a national “byline boycott.” They’re also signing a petition to protest proposed cuts at the news cooperative.

Guild members and supporters are removing their bylines from news stories and photo credits. They're also demonstrating unity by wearing red shirts and signing a petition asking AP management to reconsider a pension plan freeze and increases in medical payments by more than 40 percent.

The petition asks AP management to reconsider a pension plan freeze and a hike in the employee-paid portion of medical costs.

“Guild members have increased productivity, embraced new skills, and have made many financial sacrifices. Members are saying AP has to do better if it wants to preserve and protect quality journalism,” said News Media Guild President Tony Winton.

“AP's proposals to the News Media Guild are fundamental to maintaining the maximum number of quality journalism jobs, and assuring that these positions are compensated fairly and in accordance with the realities of today's very difficult economic challenges. Our proposals are designed to keep the best and most talented newspersons employed and to maximize AP’s ability to continue to cover extended and breaking stories. We are confident we will reach agreement on these critical issues,” said a statement from AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford in response to an inquiry from RBR-TVBR.

After failing to make payments into the pension plan for years, AP wants to freeze the benefit, which was paid by salary deferrals. The Guild says the proposal would undermine retirement security for almost all workers. AP also wants workers to absorb $1 million in medical plan costs even though workers adopted cost-savings measures two years ago. AP told the union that it can afford to absorb the increase - it "just doesn't want to."

About 1,200 AP employees in the U.S. are represented by the News Media Guild, a local of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. The union represents reporters, writers, editors, broadcast staff, technology employees and business office employees.

The current two-year contract expired Nov. 30, 2010.

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