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Indy Star Guild Gets Raises For Employees, But Could Lose Up To Eight Jobs

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild and the Indianapolis Star have reached an agreement that awards pay raises to most workers, including the lowest-paid, but gives parent company Gannett the right to outsource up to eight jobs.

The Guild reports that covered workers will receive raises of 2-4 percent, with the highest raises going to the lowest paid workers. (The Star imposed a 10 percent pay cut in 2009, so this is only the first step toward restoring workers’ pay to pre-recession levels.)

But the company was “unyielding” in its insistence that page design work would be outsourced out of state to be designed at a center in Louisville. “We made a strong case…that this could damage the local news product,” guild vice president Adam Yates wrote. “But it became clear that this was an edict from Gannett, The Star’s parent company, and that the quality of the product was a secondary consideration to saving money.”

Six to eight jobs will be displaced (but it’s unclear how many will be hired in Louisville, if any, to replace them).

Finally, Yates said, “The pay raises, while not fully restoring our 10 percent cuts from two years ago, were significant. Our industry is still in job and pay cutting mode. And newspaper unions around the country are still facing cuts such as the ones we took two years ago.

“That we could squeeze out even these modest raises was a testimony the efforts of our workers and our friends in the community and the breadth of our public campaign…We will continue our efforts to Save the Star.”

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Portland Newspaper Guild Rejects 50 Changes To Contract

The investors seeking to buy a majority of MaineTodayMedia – publisher of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel – demanded fifty changes to the contract before they would agree to the purchase.

Today, the Portland Newspaper Guild rejected those changes, so the 2100 Trust will not be making its purchase.

Without the infusion of money, the company faces bankruptcy. MaineToday Media is $7.6 million in debt, reports Al Diamon.

Some sources told Diamon that bankruptcy might be a preferred option to the deal, which wasn’t guaranteed to keep the company out of bankruptcy anyway. But Guild president Tom Bell denies that:
“We have no illusions about bankruptcy,” Bell said. Bankruptcy is not a good place for us. We understand that.”

Pittsburgh’s WTAE Staffers Ask For Scheduling Relief, Overtime

On-air talent at Pittsburgh’s WTAE rejoined AFTRA in 2010, after 12 years of being a non-union shop.

Now, in 2012, the union members can’t come to terms with management on a contract.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that WTAE’s on-air staff have launched a social media campaign that say they are being “denied severance benefits for workers fired without cause, a minimum salary scale, overtime pay after eight hours in a work day, retirement benefits on the same terms as other employees at the station, and consideration for unscheduled call-outs, split shifts and work on the sixth consecutive day and thereafter.”

The staffers say that since other Hearst stations have recently settled contracts, WTAE, which is also owned by Hearst, should follow suit.

“I believe they want us to start all over again. They say, ‘You can’t catch up with the other stations,’ ” said Bill Hillgrove, who provides reporting for WTAE.

Michael Hayes, president and general manager of WTAE, said he could not comment to the P-G other than to say, “We are negotiating in good faith and look forward to continuing those negotiations. We continue to value our employees and look to working toward the future.”

WHDH-TV Reaches Agreement With Union

The union that represents Boston’s WHDH-TV anchors and reporters has come to an agreement with the station for a new three-year contract that provides 2 percent raises in exchange for the gradual phasing out of fees paid to anchors and reporters for appearing on air.

The Boston Globe reports that this agreement is more than two years in the making and took some “difficult and protracted” negotiation.

After the station and AFTRA‘s Boston chapter couldn’t agree on the fee and salary structure or on how to handle age discrimination complaints, talks broke off over the summer, and the union even went so far as to urge its members to boycott WHDH’s high-profile health expo, which meant viewers couldn’t meet their favorite anchors as promised.

Pay for on-air talent is based on a combination of base salary and on-air appearance fees, which can account for up to half a reporter’s pay, the Globe says. But “People are glad that it’s [the negotiation is] over, and wanted to move forward,” Tom Higgins, executive director of the guild, told the Globe.

EFE Workers Ask For More Money

Workers at EFE, the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency, have gone without raises since January 2008.

Now, as contract talks reopen, the News Media Guild is asking for a five percent wage increase for each of the next two years, and also called for additional paid time off and higher employer contributions to employee retirement plans.

“EFE workers have seen their real wages eroded by inflation since 2008,” Tony Winton, the Guild’s president, said in a statement. “Workers have done their part for four years and are eager to continue embracing new skills and technologies, but it’s time for EFE to improve compensation.”

EFE asked for a three-month extension to the current contract while it thinks about the requests. Last year, the company rejected nearly all the guild’s requests.

Kennebec Journal Inks New Contract With Newsroom, Advertising, Finance

The Kennebec Journal in Maine and the union representing 32 employees at the newspaper have signed a contract that gives those employees a five percent raise but comes with significant concessions, Al Diamon at DownEast reports.

The five percent raise goes into effect the first year, but pay is frozen after that.

It also allows the company to pay less for employee health insurance, and includes some changes regarding severance pay and layoffs. (More details here.)

The paper’s owner, MaineToday Media, also owns the Portland Press Herald, a much larger paper, where MTM is said to be asking for many of the same cuts and givebacks as it received here at the KJ.

MTM purchased these papers in 2009 and immediately cut 30 non-union employees and a number of pressmen whose jobs were consolidated. The company followed up in 2010 by cutting another 60 jobs; honestly, as far as newspaper carnage goes, two rounds of layoffs in two years is nothing.

New Study Pins Wage Inequality On Lack Of Unions

A new study says that the decline in union power and membership since the 1970s is responsible for a full third of wage inequality since then, the New York Times reports.

The study, published in the American Sociological Review, says that the decline of the U.S. labor movement “has added as much to men’s wage inequality as has the relative increase in pay for college graduates.”

When unions represented more than 30 percent of the private sector workforce, even nonunion employers would raise wages in an attempt to stop their workers from organizing. The study also says that “when one in three male workers were organized, unions were often prominent voices for equity, not just for their members, but for all workers.”

Wage inequality in the private sector increased by 40 percent since 1973, the study says.

But try telling that to Gov. Scott Walker.

Toledo Blade Employees Ratify New Contract, 9% Wage Cut Over 3 Years

After a long bargaining process that included protests and nearly a strike, the Toledo Blade has ratified a new contract with its newsroom employees and other members of the Toledo Newspaper Guild.

The contract calls for a 3 percent wage cut for each of the next three years, reduction of vacation time and sick time, and the outsourcing of 20 jobs in classified sales and ad services.

Though the contract was approved by a 2-to-1 margin, it does not “reflect the membership’s considerable anger and frustration about the agreement,” the Guild said. “Ultimately, most members took the bargaining committee’s advice that this was as good a deal as they were going to see.”

The guild did protect two jobs, prevent the company from reducing severance pay, and make a few other gains.

And the initial proposal called for a 15 percent wage cut and up to 200 layoffs.

‘Don’t Ever Think Newsroom Managers Have Your Best Interests At Heart’

Mark Wollemann has been the assistant sports editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune since 1999 and been in journalism since the early ’80s.

He’s taken a leave of absence to teach writing in Bulgaria, but left this note on his way out.

In it, he discusses his feelings on the importance of the newspaper guild and how managers, he says, are not exactly on the same side as staffers:

Don’t ever think newsroom managers have your best interests at heart. I know you all know this, but they care most about producing a newspaper on a budget. They probably even find themselves making decisions that run counter to their own journalistic instincts. Therefore, each of us really must watch out for ourselves….While we, each of us, has to watch out for ourselves, the proper role of a collective is to also watch out for each other – especially our most vulnerable members. None of us should fool ourselves into thinking that we won’t one day be a part of that “vulnerable” class. When we’re young, we look at those folks who have run into troubles, health troubles, family issues or the like. They look like they’re in the way and too unproductive to be protected. But in the previous decades, those are the same people who built this guild, who have helped sustain it to this day. They have EARNED the right to have a bad week or month or year.

The Strib is currently negotiating a new contract with the newspaper guild; the current contract expires July 31.

After Two-Year Dispute, Reuters Votes On New Contract

Reuters journalists, technicians, and other members of the Newspaper Guild of New York voted today to accept a new three-year contract with Thomson Reuters Corp.

The agreement provides for 1.5 percent raises for each of the next three years, restores a company 2 percent retirement account contribution, and will give each of the 430 Guild-covered employees a lump sum payment “to settle charges at the National Labor Relations Board and in exchange for accepting some work rule changes.” Each employee will get, on average, $17,000 over three years.

That doesn’t include any possible settlement payments from a NLRB charge that Thomson Reuters’ social media policy violated federal standards by restricting employees’ rights to discuss working conditions (the “water cooler” principle). Settlement talks between the Guild and the company are ongoing for that charge, the Guild said.

The company’s prior contract expired 18 months ago.

“It’s been a long battle and we’re happy that it is behind us,” New York Guild President Bill O’Meara said in a statement. “We have a new contract that rewards Guild employees for the critical work they do to make Thomson Reuters successful. I truly hope that this new contract sets the stage for a productive and positive relationship with the new Thomson Reuters management team.”