DON’T STOP THE PRESSES: Guild And Company Reach Agreement, There Will Be No Strike, Repeat THE STRIKE HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO LACK OF INTEREST ALL AROUND, Back To Same As It Ever Was


The Newspaper Guild and the owners of the Daily News and Inquirer reached a tentative contract agreement minutes ago, averting a newspaper strike here in Philly…assuming the contract is ratified by union members (never a slam dunk).

I know nothing of the details, although I imagine Steve Volk will figure it out soon.

The upshot is you still have Attytood to kick around — aren’t you glad?

PREVIOUSLY: A Strike Would Be ‘Mutual Suicide’

frown.thumbnail.jpgSGT BYKO REPORTS: The Guild and the PN reached a tentative agreement on all issues at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday. “It’s a package requiring a lot of sacrifice from our members. But it is a package that is far less devastating than what the Company originally proposed,” said Unit Chairwoman Diane Mastrull, who led the negotiating team into holding onto many of our benefits. There’s no sugar coating this contract. It is a disappointing, giveback deal.

We will discuss elements of the contract more fully Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Congregation Rodeph Shalom Synagogue. This is not a ratification meeting, but one will be held as soon as we can book an appropriate sized venue.

Below is a brief description of the hot-button issues.

DURATION: 3 years. The contract expires at Midnight August 31, 2009.

WAGES: Employees shall receive no pay increase in the first year. Full-time employees shall receive a $1,500 bonus (paid in two parts) in the second year. Employees shall receive a $25 per week raise in the third year. Due to rising increases in health and welfare costs, it is possible that some if not all of this money will be diverted into the Guild’s health and welfare fund which is responsible for your sick benefits.

PENSION: The Guild and PN will work through the Pension Board, which is comprised of three Guild trustees and three PN trustees, to merge with a multi-employer pension plan by Dec. 31, 2007. A multi-employer plan is a pension plan in which more than one employer participates. Many single-employer pension plans nowadays are also merging into multi-employer pension plans which provide economic incentives to companies and which are considered safer investments than single-employer funds.

Because our plan is healthy, it is an attractive merger partner and we are hoping to negotiate a seat on the board of the new fund. Employees will receive an additional year of benefit service credit on their pensions for the year 2007. Once merged into a multi-employer plan, our pension may be frozen, but there is also an option to keep the plan alive, with employee contributions coming through payroll diversions.

The Company will give $4 million to the Guild earmarked as a contribution to the new multi-employer plan or to fund an employee’s existing 401(k) or establish a 401(k) for employees who do not yet have such an account. There are however, no plans for PN to contribute any additional money, or ongoing “match” to employees’ 401(k) accounts.

There is tremendous financial incentive for the employer if the Pension Trustees can successfully establish a multi-employer plan merger. However, if such a merger does not take place, the company may eventually assume sole administration of the pension fund.

Because so many members have said they have little to no trust for our new owners, we have negotiated extraordinary transparency so we may monitor the plan and additionally, have full legal recourse in the event of any appearance of impropriety by PN with the pension fund.

Despite members’ concerns, PN will not be able to invest our pension fund recklessly. Under the strict federal laws of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the employer shall be obligated to invest our pension fund with the utmost caution.

SICK TIME: A Guild member can take up to 40 weeks sick time, depending on how long he /she has worked here (Article 21 of the current contract) but they will be paid at 65 percent of their salary rather than at 100 percent as it is today. In the event of injury or hospitalization, benefits (at 65 percent pay) shall begin on the first day of absence. For the first absence due to illness in any calendar year, employees will be paid at 100 percent for up to three days of absence. After the first three days, they shall be paid at 65 percent. If an employee is not absent due to illness between either January 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007 or July 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007 he/she may earn an additional “pass” of up to three days of pay at 100 percent. Employees can carry a “pass” into the next calendar year, but can at no time hold more than two. If the employee does not have a pass and calls out sick, he/she will not be paid until the fourth day of illness at which point they will be paid at 65 percent rate.

SENIORITY: There are changes in the reduction in force (layoff) language for the newsrooms and for advertising sales people but not for other job categories. In the newsrooms, all classes of editors, artists and photographers will continue to live under straight seniority. However, there are carve outs for some beat reporters, columnists and critics, as designated by what Inquirer editor Bill Marimow and Daily News editor Michael Days have identified as the core functions of their newspapers. The editor may skip over those classes of reporters as he works up the layoff list. He must, however, allow anyone in danger of being laid off and who has held any of those beats for a year to bump less senior employees.

As for the ad department, commissioned sales people will now be merged into the seniority list with salaried sales people based on their dates of hire.

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