Wear your red shirt Friday!
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Practical vs. practicable: Times gets "practical"
Tuesday’s bargaining session between the Times management team and the Times Guild team was a question and (sometimes) answer session as the two groups tried to get a better feel for the proposals.
The teams covered most of the company’s proposal and touched on a little of the Guild’s proposal.
Flexible work agreements
The day started with an explanation from Times management about who it feels is exempt from overtime rules. The examples came as a shock to those of us at the Guild table. The “exempt” group included some columnists and reporters (“artistic professionals”) who might not know the company considers them exempt from overtime because the company makes arangements for compensation during long assignments. We did not get to see a list of the employees the Times considers exempt from OT rules, but we do not agree that columnists and reporters are exempt.
From 9/10 to 8/10
The Guild team unanimously opposed a company proposal to allow two workers out of every 10 to opt out of union membership. The number now is one out of 10. The company says all slots are filled, and it is having trouble recruiting because some prospective employees do not want to be part of the Guild. We think there are plenty of options for the company to recruit employees, and we can’t imagine that people would turn down an otherwise-attractive job because they don’t want to be in the union.
The company has excised from the contract the language about recriminations after a “third instance” of sick leave in a year. Times management negotiator Chris Biencourt said the company’s policy is 10 sick days per year, with any unused portion banked to a max of six months. We think people still aren’t clear about the sick policy and we’d like to see it in the contract. We are proposing 15 days per year.
The articles “Management Functions” and “Union Management Cooperation”
The guild’s legal counsel has looked over these two proposals. Both would allow the company to make dramatic changes in operating procedures without consulting the union, and we oppose them.
Wear your red shirt!
Your Guild bargaining team and Times management on Friday plowed through their contract proposals in the second session between the two groups. Neither group took much time to discuss the proposals. That starts Tuesday.
Based on the surveys you gave to us, we focused on two main issues: Job security and work/life issues.
Here are some highlights of our proposal. These are considered the non-economic items in our contract. Like we said, we take on the money issue at a later time in bargaining.
Job Security Issues
1) We asked the company to apply the Advertising Standards of Performance fairly and transparently.
2) We propose that the Times notifies the Guild within 90 days prior to the closure of the paper or a sale to a third party. Further, we want this contract to be honored by any potential buyer of the Times.
3) We seek to find a solution to the constantly fluctuating and exhausting work schedules of our members in the circulation department. Some assistant district advisers have three different start times in a week (1 a.m., 2:30 a.m. and 4 a.m.) which is a danger to the employees and the company.
1) We want a sick-leave policy spelled out in the contract. We propose 15 sick days a year, with any unused portion carried over into the next year and beyond.
2) We hope to open a dialogue with the company about flexible work agreements. Too many people feel compelled to work in exchange for comp time, which sometimes doesn't get used. We're not saying the company is in the wrong, we'd just like to get a policy in writing.
3) Perhaps the most important issue in our lives today is time. We propose a fifth week of vacation for members who have worked for the company for five years, and a faster accumulation of vacation time for people who have been with the company for more than one year.
4) Severance pay. We all know the pain the reduction in force caused last year. The company and the Guild had to bargain a severance package for employees who wanted to take a buyout. We think it's in the company's best interests to have a severance policy in place. In the event of layoffs, members might choose to take a buyout. That might provide the company with better options. We simply mirrored the plan that already exists in the PI contract.
A very quick breakdown of two of the company's proposals. There were others, but we want a better explanation from management before we say much about them.
1) It seeks to move Business and sports reporters out of the REPORTER category and into separate "silos," a term we're all familiar with from the RIF.
2) The company wants to create a new position, Reporting Assistant, who would fit in between a News Resident and Lead News Assistant. This position could create content for the Web, community publications, targeted publications, etc.
We did find some points of easy agreement, and the Guild signed off on three minor adjustments to the contract. By the end of the session, the management team scolded the Guild committee for bringing too many issues to the table. We're disappointed that the company feels issues important to its employees shouldn't be on the table.
Bargaining continues Tuesday, after which we'll post a bargaining update at our weblog, www.timesnegotiations.blogspot.org, where you can comment on what's going on. The next Guild Advocate will come after bargaining Wednesday.
It's on! our bargaining team (cue arena music): From Advertising . . . Sheri Williams and Bob Johnston. From news . . . Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe, Gene Balk and Paul Morgan! From Circulation . . . Barb Heller! From Composing . . . Rena Mefford and Dan Beaumont!
our bargaining team (cue arena music): From Advertising . . . Sheri Williams and Bob Johnston. From news . . . Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe, Gene Balk and Paul Morgan! From Circulation . . . Barb Heller! From Composing . . . Rena Mefford and Dan Beaumont!
We begin our bargaining blog with our observations and a dose of what we hope is humor. After all, we've gotta sit in meetings all day, so we'd better try to have some fun.
So please take it in that vein. If you have questions, serious or otherwise, let us know. We want your comments.
Day 1 of contract negotiations between the Guild and Times management kicked off with coffee, pastry, handshakes and, of course, plenty of talk about the death of the newspaper industry.
Key words kept echoing through the sunny Vancouver Room at the
We might agree that all those words apply to our rapidly changing industry. It's WHAT they mean that we'll be discussing as these negotiations continue.
Day 1 is about ground rules and opening statements. Everyone made nice, and many of your humble bargaining reps walked away feeling positive about the conversation and the future of the dialogue we hope to have with management. There was a good back-and-forth, but then again there were no real proposals on the table.
That comes Friday. Then we'll see the rubber hit the road. But for now, candy and roses.
Times Management says they are coming with the "skinny" file. What does that mean? We won't know until Friday. Stay tuned.
Guild AO Liz Brown started off discussing the member survey results. Top 3 concerns: 1) Wages. 2) Job security. 3) Morale problems stemming from the obvious reality that we're all doing much more with less these days.
Liz noted that one of the surveys contained some interesting information: According to one of our members, pay-scale minimums in the Seattle Times newsroom are LESS than at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Bob said you could hear a pin drop after that news.
The company negotiators began with the expected (advertising is down; dot-com collapse; strike in 2000; 9-11; Craig's List; Brad and Jennifer breakup; etc). They also acknowledged the help of the Guild during the reduction in force, unaffiliated pension-plan bailout and employee subscription drive. Mmmmmmm … goodwill.
Discussion moved to Advertising's Standards of Performance and how they are being administered (e.g. inconsistency and lack of transparency in goal setting). There seemed to be genuine concern on the other side of the table when Guild bargainers Sheri Williams and Bob Johnston were explaining what's happening in the
On the company front, we heard that Web advertising is booming, but it's not enough revenue to cover the 10 percent drop in automotive print advertising.
But more about the key words. We're not sure what management means by those words. At least not yet. I said I was more than happy to agree that our industry needs to be more flexible. My newsroom colleagues have embraced writing and editing for the Web (you guys blogging at the Olympics were frickin' amazing). We've wedged new print products into already tight schedules. Many of us are open to new ideas and experimentation in how we collect, package and distribute the news.
What is the company's definition of flexible? We'll see more on Friday.
Times negotiations start on Tuesday, when we'll go over ground rules and give opening statements. We will very likely exchange proposals on Friday and then get down to brass tacks.