Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Times rejects Guild offer, links future of talks to pension freeze



Nearly two weeks after the Guild presented a significant counter-proposal, Times negotiators responded today by rejecting virtually every facet of the offer, adding that they had no interest in pursuing contract talks until the Guild agreed to their pension-freeze demand.“

Unless you agree to freeze the pension, there’s not going to be a consensual agreement,” said The Times’s lead negotiator, Bernard Plum. “All the other stuff is just shadow boxing.”

The Guild negotiating team ended the session after management made it clear it was not willing to discuss anything other than a pension freeze.

The only element of the Guild’s latest offer accepted by management was the five-hour option that would allow overtime between 35 and 40 hours a week to be taken as a day off. 

Accepting that the first five hours of overtime per week would be paid at straight time, instead of time and a half, was a substantial concession made by the Guild to help advance negotiations, now in their fourteenth month. However, management still insists on reserving the right to regularly schedule employees on 40-hour weeks, without the option of using the extra five hours for comp days.

When Plum accused the Guild of refusing to talk about a pension freeze, President Bill O’Meara reminded him that the Guild had not refused to discuss the issue and had previously floated the idea of  a “soft” freeze (which would only impact future hires), which the company quickly shot down. O’Meara added, “Our members don’t see a value for a pension freeze based on the company’s current proposals.”

The Times’s current offer includes a mere 1 percent wage increase over three years, an increase in its health care contribution by an unsustainable 0.2 percent, and cutting its employee retirement contributions by more than half.

O’Meara told Plum: “To say that our members have to take a 10 to 15 percent cut in compensation, it’s no wonder they’re not happy.”

The Times dropped two minor proposals that were being handled in subcommittee: experience credit and salary on promotion.

David Kocieniewski, one of two Pulitzer Prize winners at The New York Times this year, with daughters Devin and Katia Barricklow at a Times victory celebration on April 16. The red sticker on Kocieniewski's jacket says "Guild."

Many thanks to the observers present, including David Kocieniewski on the morning after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.

The next negotiating session is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, at the Guild office.

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