Monday, September 17, 2012

NY Times Negotiators Refuse To Improve Their Contract Proposals



Contract talks resumed today with more discussion of the Incentive Bonus Plan, as management refused to budge from its original offer that capped the maximum annual bonus for employees at a mere 2 percent of salary. Two days ago, Guild negotiators presented a counter-proposal to raise the bonus maximum to 20 percent – still far less than the non-Guild maximum – with goals determined by management and payouts made only if the goals were met.

In response to their unchanged offer, New York Guild President Bill O’Meara told management negotiators: “Why is it so hard for you to recognize the contributions of our members? This is a needless slap in the face.”

This disappointing development was just another example of company negotiators’ unwillingness to move by a single penny from their original proposal. This has been standard operating procedure since talks began in February 2011. The company’s financial package, which has not changed, includes a raise of only 1 percent over three years, a sharp cut in pension spending and a negligible increase in health care spending that would choke the fund that covers employee medical claims.

While management has embraced the concept of the Guild’s alternative pension plan proposal, which would preserve a defined benefit pension plan at The Times, it would buy into the innovative plan on the cheap – by slashing its annual pension funding to $3.5 million from the current $10 million. It doesn’t take an MBA to conclude benefits would fall sharply as a result.

On health care, management is sticking with its original proposal to increase its spending by only $200,000. With its current funding to the Guild-Times benefits fund at about 6 percent of payroll, or roughly $6 million a year, the company is spending less than half on employee health care than most companies its size. Without a sizable increase, the benefits fund, which is jointly overseen by Guild and management trustees, will eventually run out of money as medical costs rise, raising the possibility that employees will again have to increase their contributions to it.

The only small movement on the company’s part today involved the verification process for the Incentive Bonus Plan, to ensure that goals and payouts would use the same formula as the current management plan.

Friday’s planned bargaining session will be used for the Guild committee to work on counter-proposals. The next full-table negotiating session is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20,2012.

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