Guild proposes 5-year pact with bonuses
The parties had a productive day in bargaining Wednesday, with the Guild proposing a 5-year pact that would offer $750 bonuses for the first three years instead of raises.
In the fourth year, when we hope the economy has recovered, we proposed a 2.5 percent raise. In the final year, we proposed a 2.75 percent pay hike.
“Unlike percentage raises, the bonuses would be a one-time payment that would not increase base pay,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “It would enable workers to get some extra money. The Company has made clear it was not interested in our proposal to cut wages to save jobs, so we believe the workers who remain and will likely see a heavier workload should at least get some extra money.”
The Company did not respond to the wage offer, but praised the Guild committee for its creative approach. A response will likely come during Thursday’s negotiations, which begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Executive Conference Room.
At day’s end, the Company said it has not decided whether to cancel the contract Thursday as it had threatened to do. Instead, company lawyers said they would leave that issue hovering over negotiations. The Guild is ready to implement an action plan should that occur.
The parties did make progress on a number of issues:
- We are near to finalizing an agreement that would enable members to donate three days a year of sick time to any seriously ill colleague who’d used up their own sick leave.
- The Company agreed to move the currently exempt position of director of research into the Guild. Initially, that employee oversaw two librarians but those employees retired and were not replaced. The union argued successfully the job was no longer supervisory. The parties also agreed that the former director of security, who has been doing the mail clerk’s duties, will move into the Guild as well.
- The Guild expressed a willingness to agree to the Company’s demand that people whose spouses work at the Times Union not be eligible for the health-insurance buyout. In return, the Guild said any increase in health care share should occur at the same rate as in the Teamsters’ contract. That means it would rise from the current 16 percent to 18 percent Dec. 1 this year; 20 percent on Dec. 1, 2010; 22 percent on Dec. 1, 2011; 23 percent on Dec. 1, 2012; and 25 percent on Dec. 1, 2013. (The Company would have the share increase to 22 percent on Jan. 1, 2010 and 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2011.)
The parties also had a thorough discussion about the six advertising sales positions spread out over four different pay classifications. Three of those titles have no one in them. There also was discussion about giving employees more input on commissions.
Increasing the contribution to the pension fund was also discussed. The contribution has remained at 85 cents an hour for more than 20 years. With the stock market woes, the Guild argued for more money to help prevent benefit cuts. The Company opposed any increase.
John Runfola, Guild pension fund trustee
Dear Guild Brothers and Sisters:
Many Guild members who are weighing the buyout offer are looking to the Capital Newspapers/Guild pension fund to ease their exit from the Times Union. The company has used the pension fund as an inducement to get Guild workers to leave for many years, but this year it is time for the company to increase the contribution to preserve this valuable asset.
The reduction in the number of active Guild members reduces pension fund income because there are fewer workers contributing, but increasing the drain on the fund because more people are drawing well-deserved benefits.
Past benefit increases, including full retirement at age 55 with 10 years of service, were all financed through pension fund gains. Those days are over.
The collapse in stocks and corporate bonds, has put the pension fund in a very serious funding situation. The pension fund is governed by four company trustees and four Guild trustees. Serious cuts in future benefits will have to be considered if Guild negotiators fail to provide for the future of the pension fund.
In short, the pension fund needs more money. The same 85 cents per hour has been placed in the fund since the 1980s, when the price of gasoline was 85 cents per gallon. Today, “cheap” gas is $2.15. Do the math about the value of the pension fund contributions in light of inflation.
Few people think about a pension until it becomes time to collect benefits. This pension fund is worth preserving and the time to restore it to health is now.
Guild pension fund trustee