Friday marks seven years since Times Union employees last had a raise, but the Newspaper Guild made a new push Thursday to settle the entire contract.
The union gave the Company a proposal that was off-the-record for all but communication purposes, meaning we can tell you what we offered. Here’s a a quick summary:
RAISES: A 2 percent raise retroactive to August 1, 2010; 2.5 percent raises effective August 1, 2014; August 1, 2015, August 1, 2016; and August 1, 2017.
HEALTH CARE: Agree to pay 24 percent of health care costs on January 1, 2015, and 25 percent on January 1, 2016.
LAYOFFS: The Company could choose whomever they want for layoffs, but those let go out of seniority would get enhanced severance of three weeks per year of service with no cap. An added bonus would be paid based on seniority, ranging from $5,000 for people with 10 to 14 years of service up to $20,000 for those with 26 or more years of experience. (Employees between 55 and 65 would risk a hit on their pensions if discharged early.)
OUTSOURCING: As under the imposed conditions, the Company would have to negotiate over any outsourcing. (The Company wants to be able to outsource our work without negotiation.)
PENSION: The Guild proposed increasing the multiplier for calculating pensions from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, which would raise the pensions slightly. We also proposed reducing the early retirement penalty from 5 percent a year to 2.5 percent, so someone who retired at 55 would get a 25 percent reduction, not a 50 percent cut.)
The parties had a lively discussion of the proposal. (For legal reasons, details have to remain off the record.) The Company took our proposal seriously and in the spirit in which it was given.
Publisher George Hearst said the Company would review the proposal and prepare one of its own shortly. A meeting date was not set, but Hearst said he would try to schedule one as soon as possible.
Guild Treasurer Marianne Mahr provided some excellent context for the discussion by presenting some numbers on how costs have increased for employees. Since 2007, she noted, grocery prices have increased 21.5 percent, rents have increased from 14 to 22 percent depending on the size of an apartment, gas prices are up 23 percent just from April 2010 and health insurance costs at the Times Union have gone up $1,730, which amounts to 3 percent of a $50,000 salary.
Looking at cost of living adjustments for people on Social Security over the past seven years, she showed that the Times Union was lagging by 16.2 percent. In real dollars, employees have not only not had raises. They’ve had a very real cut in income.