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Wall Street Journal‘s Union Contract Mandates Wage Freeze

wsj_3.19.10.jpgThe Wall Street Journal‘s new union contract stipulates a wage freeze through July of 2011. On the plus side, negotiations between Dow Jones and WSJ’s union (the International Association of Publishers Employees, or IAPE) resulted in lower health insurance premiums and an enhanced 401(k) program. Additionally, those working from home are now eligible for premium pay.

Full emails from both the Journal‘s corporate office and the union, via The Village Voice, after the jump:


From: Corporate Affairs Date: Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM Subject: A note to all staff from Les Hinton regarding tentative agreement with IAPE

Dear colleagues:

I am pleased to tell you we have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with IAPE. I believe this agreement will provide us with an added level of stability in these difficult times without resorting to the drastic measures that have weakened our competitors and will prepare us for growth when opportunity allows.

The agreement reflects the diligent and sometimes difficult work of bargaining teams from both sides. The process began early this year with significant differences between the company and the union both conceptually and practically. The agreement represents a compromise from those views by both sides, a compromise achieved by professional and productive negotiation.

On salaries, a freeze will be in effect for IAPE staff for 17 months (from February 2010 to July 2011) after which a minimum increase of 2% will be applied in each of the next three years.

Regarding benefits, IAPE staff beginning July 1 will join the same programs now provided for all other U.S. staff. This includes the new health and wellness plans implemented this year with their enhanced programs and the opportunity for premium savings. It also includes the new retirement savings and retiree medical programs. The enhanced 401(k) program will take effect for IAPE staff on July 1 concurrent with the closing of the Money Purchase Plan program.

We agreed as well to new provisions concerning items such as shift differentials, standby pay and premium pay. More details on those and the other elements of this lengthy agreement will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The tentative agreement is subject to a ratification vote by the union membership, which we expect to occur in several weeks. Assuming ratification, this agreement would go into effect immediately and expire on June 30, 2014.

I said when these talks began that we need sustainable solutions capable of supporting the continuing evolution of our business. Aligning our operations and our business objectives more closely under this agreement takes us an important step closer to that objective.

The proposed new contract affords us the opportunity to continue our progress. As we introduce new products and pioneer new digital initiatives for news and business information, I look forward to maintaining our momentum and accelerating our shared focus on success.

Best,

Les

From: Steven Yount Date: Fri, Mar 19, 2010 at 4:00 AM Subject: Contract Bargaining: We Have A Deal

Friends,

IAPE and Dow Jones have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.

The package has been endorsed by the IAPE Bargaining Committee and is being reviewed by the union’s Executive Council. It will then be submitted to the full IAPE Board of Directors for debate and a vote before being submitted for a membership ratification vote before the end of April.

While not the contract that any of us would have written if we could have written it alone, we’re convinced this is the best deal we can get with Dow Jones right now. Given the generally dismal condition of the news business — and the discouraging pattern of recent contract agreements across the industry — we’re convinced this is a deal that must be ratified.

The company began these negotiations with a demand for blanket waivers covering every core element of the contract — and a demand that we surrender any right to negotiate wage increases, insisting, instead, that any future pay increases — or pay freezes — be at the sole discretion of management. We beat back each and every one of those demands.

The company bargaining team will tell its bosses that IAPE has agreed to the same wage freeze imposed last year on non-union employees. The DJ bargaining team was under orders to deliver such a “freeze.” Without it, there would be no contract. And although base rates don’t change until July 1, 2011, we’ve still managed to put more money in your pocket this year.

Even though the company steadfastly refused lump-sum payments, signing bonuses, deferred raises and any other direct increase in weekly wages, we did negotiate a July 1st switch to the new (and better) health care plan, which will mean lower premiums immediately for more than 90% of IAPE members while maintaining current coverage. Those lower premiums are real money that you’ll see in your check every payday.

The wage increases in years 2, 3 and 4 are smaller than we wanted (and much smaller than you deserve), but they’re all we could get — and they are still better than the rest of the industry. We will receive a 2% increase on July 1, 2011 another 2% on July 1, 2012 and 2% on July 1, 2013 — and we’ve preserved Cost of Living (COLA) Protection as well. We’re confident in telling you that we didn’t leave a single nickel on the table.

We have enhanced severance, maintaining the existing 52-week cap for 26 years of service, preserving the basic guideline of 2 weeks severance for every year on the job, and we’ve held on to the extra 4 weeks’ pay for layoffs due to outsourcing, while expanding company-paid portions of post-layoff medical care for employees with more than 9 years on the job and adding outplacement assistance to the existing retraining benefits. We have maintained seniority protections, beating back the Company’s initial proposal that would have gutted your seniority rights.

Stand-by pay is increasing July 1, 2010 ($160 @ week for overtime eligible employees and $200 @ week for overtime exempt employees). Shift differential is increasing July 1, 2010 ($100 @ week for either the overnight/early morning shift or the evening shift). And anyone making less than a thousand dollars a week (almost 30% of the membership) will be able to “cash-in” a week of vacation. “Minimum increases” for the lowest paid employees will be calculated on a threshold of $1,000 a week and will translate into $20 per week raises, or between 2.5% and 3.5% a year for the majority of those members paid under the minimum dollar salary level, almost 20% of the membership. At the same time, IAPE and Dow Jones have agreed to a formal review of all job scales, with the expectation that the process will result in those scales being increased, another direct benefit for the Dow Jones employees on the lower end of the salary range.

Premium pay for working on your regularly scheduled day off is changing.

For those who are eligible for overtime, premium pay will be paid for every hour worked. The 5-hour-minimum disappears, but in exchange the company has dropped its long-standing contention that working at home doesn’t qualify, agreeing to premium pay, regardless of the location — and agreeing, for the first time, that it’ll pay OT for work assigned on a vacation day (and you’ll still keep the day to be used at a later date).

For those who aren’t eligible for overtime, the age-old informal system of ‘comp time’ is being written into the contract, with some significant enhancements. Managers will be required to log ‘comp time’ (credited at the rate of an hour and a half for every hour worked) and will have 90 days in which to schedule the time off or will be forced to pay the ‘comp time’ out in cash. A premium is still payable for some work when performed at a Dow Jones office or an “assigned” location.

The biggest loss is in the Money Purchase Plan.

We managed to negotiate a 6-month extension of the retirement savings plan and to win considerable enhancements in the 401(k) contributions made by the company, but there’s no denying that the loss of the Money Purchase Plan is going to hurt a significant number of members. We tried to save the plan or craft an alternative that would continue at least a portion of the past Money Purchase Plan contributions, but we couldn’t move the company.

All of the details of the package will be posted on the IAPE website — and IAPE president Steve Yount will be visiting Dow Jones locations across the country in the next month to talk about the package and answer your questions. In the meantime, if there’s anything you need, let us know — or reach out directly to union organizer Tim Martell.

IAPE Bargaining Committee
Steve Yount
Bob Kozma
Rob Johnson
Patricia Corley
Erin Rodgers
Andy Georgiades
Amy Merrick
Bruce Nelson
Tim Martell

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