Philly newspapers’ contract talks drag on

The Newspaper Guild of Philadelphia tells its members at the Inquirer and Daily News:

“In the very week that the company announced a board of directors, three years of positive cash flow and the launch of a new business section for what was described as a ‘reborn’ Inquirer, the Guild hoped [last Friday’s] session would carry the positive momentum forward. The company, however, only wanted to engage in more expensive time-wasting by offering not one single idea or proposal in three hours.”

A contract extension expires on Sunday, and “at this time the Guild bargaining committee has told the company we do not want another extension. We want to start bargaining.”

The union memo is after the jump:

From: Guild Bulletin
Date: 05/15/2015 3:44 PM (GMT-05:00)
To:
Subject: GUILD BULLETIN: NO MORE WASTING TIME!

HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT HOW TO PAY YOUR $12,000 HEALTH CARE BILL?

The Guild returned to mediation today with the hope that the company would arrive with the proposals requested by the Federal Mediator to finally – after 25+ sessions – move the process along.

Instead, company negotiators brought a new issue to the table – a desire to change and presumably cheapen your health care plan, which renews June 1. When pressed for details on their proposed changes, they had nothing but a desire to cancel next Wednesday’s mediation session and extend the present contract another 30 days.

In the very week that the company announced a board of directors, three years of positive cash flow and the launch of a new business section for what was described as a “reborn” Inquirer, the Guild hoped today’s session would carry the positive momentum forward. The company, however, only wanted to engage in more expensive time-wasting by offering not one single idea or proposal in three hours.

Why is it expensive?

As the company knows well because the new VP for Human Resources and a VP for Finance are trustees on our joint Health & Welfare Fund, the plan renews on June 1 with a 14 percent increase, leaving the Fund approximately $2.5 million short of its annual needs to pay for the benefit. The company has offered only $500,000 to fill that gap – a number it has not moved from since bargaining began – forcing the Fund to pick up the deficit as it has for the past two years. The Fund, however, will run out of money in less than a year, so if the company sticks with its $500,000 offer, Guild members will be forced to pick up the $2 million difference. This will be an unmanageable expense for most members (between $4,000 and $8,500 additional for the FIRST year, depending on coverage, with further increases likely every year thereafter) and also leave the company subject to Affordable Care Act penalties.

So what was their plan today with only two weeks until the new rates kick in? After company Health & Welfare trustees chose not to address this issue at the last Health & Welfare meeting and conference call, now they want to change the plan to make it more affordable FOR THEM, which can only mean worse coverage FOR YOU.

Only, they had no specifics, nothing to discuss – they remain habitually unprepared to accomplish ANYTHING ­– and, regardless, any plan changes would require the approval of the Health & Welfare trustees.

Our contract extension expires May 24. At this time the Guild bargaining committee has told the company we do not want another extension. We want to start bargaining.

Our final scheduled mediation session is Wednesday morning. If the company again refuses to come with anything concrete to discuss, our only alternatives will be the filing of an Unfair Labor Practice charge and a strike authorization vote.

In solidarity,

Howard Gensler
Bill Ross
Diane Mastrull
Cindy Burton
Melanie Burney
Regina Medina
Brian McCrone

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