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Fresno Bee Ratifes New Contract

The members of the Fresno Bee Guild voted unanimously Monday to ratify a new three-year contract with the paper, the Pacific Media Workers Guild notes.

The good news: everyone at the Bee who was awarded a raise between January and June of this year and hadn’t yet gotten the extra money will be paid retroactively.

For the rest of 2011, there will be a 2 percent merit pool (so that individuals can receive raises, or not, from that pool).

The newspaper, which is owned by McClatchy, retained the right to implement one week of furloughs in 2011, 2012, and 2013, if needed; the company also cut maximum severance from 40 weeks to 26 and reserved its right to require reporters to shoot photos or otherwise assign staff to duties “outside of their core skill set.” The contract, however, prohibits management from judging staff “based on the performance of duties outside of his or her core skill.”

Toledo Blade Newsroom Employees March After Contract Talks Fall Apart

More than 50 Toledo Blade employees marched outside the newspaper’s offices yesterday to demonstrate against the company’s $8.8 million in proposed cuts, the Blade reported.

The 50 employees represented members of the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions fighting to keep their jobs. Nearly 200 jobs would be cut under the newspaper’s plan to outsource production and distribution, classified advertising artists, and advertising services.

The unions offered a total of $7.2 million in concessions but “talks collapsed after they could not agree on a proposed 15 percent pay cut and increased health-insurance premium costs for employees.”

The negotiations affect 330 employees, including those in the newsroom. All guild-covered employees saw their contracts expire Feb. 28, but they’re continuing to work under the old contract, for now.

All eight unions in the Toledo Council have authorized a strike if necessary.

Two Hawaii Newspapers, Two Different Negotiations

The Maui News has reached a tentative agreement with its news, pressmen and typographical guilds that would rescind a layoff notice issued April 1 that would cut 10 jobs. In exchange, staff would delay a 2 percent raise and 1 percent retirement match for one year, til July 1, 2012.

According to the Media Workers Guild, the Maui News has reported “continued month-over-month declines in advertising revenue, and has said that the declines have outstripped the savings generated by the 10 percent pay cut that was approved by union members in 2009.”

Meanwhile, at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the company has offered five raises of 1%, 1.5%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 2% — or 7.5% over five years, but would reduce sick leave, paid holidays, and vacation. It would also increase the amount it pays for individual health insurance but cut the amount it pays for family plans.

“The bargaining committee has taken the company’s offer under advisement. No new bargaining dates have been scheduled, but we are hopeful that talks can resume in late May,” the guild said.

The Star-Advertiser’s owner recorded a record profit in 2010, though details about how much came from the Star-Advertiser itself are murky.

AP, Union Reach Tentative Agreement

After six months of talks, the Associated Press staff and the company have reached a tentative agreement for a new 33-month contract.

The contract would include three raises of 1.5 percent: one to take effect immediately, a second Sept. 1, and a third Sept. 1, 2012.

The contract also calls for a freeze in pension plans (with a small bonus for current pensionholders) and adds language that will prevent AP from laying off staff and replacing them with freelancers. There is also a severance bonus if a one-person bureau is closed, a promise to freeze health insurance rates for the life of the contract, and new vacation language.

The contract will be mailed out for a vote “shortly,” the Guild said in a memo.

Will staff vote yes? “The bargaining committee believes this is the best deal possible short of more intense mobilization activities, up to and including a strike,” so things could get interesting if they don’t.

NLRB Defends Reuters Tweeter

Thomson Reuters’s legal issues aren’t limited to the FindLaw suit we mentioned earlier today. The company is also under fire from the National Labor Relations Board, which will file a civil complaint in defense of a Reuters reporter who commented on union negotiations via Twitter.

Thomson Reuters reprimanded Deborah Zabarenko after she tweeted, “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members,” reports The New York Times. Zabarenko covers the environment for Reuters and also leads its Newspaper Guild.

The NLRB says the reprimand amounted to a violation of Zabarenko’s right to discuss working conditions. Its case would be the first brought by the government against an employer that involves Twitter. “Labor law specialists say employees have the right to criticize or disparage their companies or supervisors as part of a conversation aimed at improving working conditions, but do not have the right to merely curse supervisors or make untrue, disloyal statements that damage a company’s reputation,” the Times reports.

Romenesko has posted a New York Guild press release about the complaint.

The Writers Guild: A Model for Unions?

The role of labor unions in our workplaces has become a topic of discussion as state governments curtail the power of public-sector unions and workers push back. Apart from these battles, I admit that I often think of unions as hailing from a bygone era, disconnected from the work that I do.

Lowell Peterson argues to the contrary in an AlterNet editorial. The executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, believes that the WGAE could serve as a model for other unions as our economy transitions from a manufacturing base to an information economy.

I think our success rests on our ability to be both a traditional, militant union whose members are willing and able to strike and, at the same time, a guild that offers a sense of community and professional solidarity. Both are important. We are very good at negotiating and enforcing collective bargaining agreements (although the Great Recession and the transformation of some parts of our industry have made this more challenging than ever). Members like being part of the Writers Guild both because it fights for their interest and because it demonstrates that they have achieved a level of professional and creative success. It links them to other people with a passion to create, to tell stories, to present news and public affairs in reliable and compelling ways, to make people laugh or cry or think.

Read more

Maui News Offers 10 Buyouts

The Maui News will re-offer buyouts in order to cut 10 positions from the newsroom or pressmen staff, reports the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

The buyouts would provide a week of pay for each year of service, plus the option to choose between a $10,000 lump sum payment or extended medical coverage.

If the company can achieve equivalent payroll savings without cutting jobs, it will, but its proposal to reduce the workweek from 37.5 to 35 hours (the equivalent of a 6.6 percent pay cut) and delay salary increases was rejected by the guild.

AP, Guild Agree On Key Contract Provisions

On Monday, negotiations between the Associated Press and the News Media Guild resumed with the help of a federal mediator, who will be assisting with the talks for the rest of the week.

On Tuesday, the guild and the AP tentatively agreed to new contract language that provides better job security for correspondents and establishes a “diversity and inclusion” committee.

The new contract language, if officially approved, would require AP to provide the guild with a copy of any employee evaluation that scores the employee as below “meets expectations” as well as CC the guild on any written disciplinary actions sent to guild-covered employees.

The contract would also provide for better severance for single-person correspondents and give laid-off employees preference for 18 months at any AP location.

“This is an important step forward in talks with AP,” Martha Waggoner, the chair of the negotiating committee, said in a statement.

During Wednesday negotiations, the AP rejected a proposal from the guild for a new type of pension plan that would save the company $1.6 million a year; the company is pushing to do away with pensions in exchange for a 401(k) type plan.

Negotiations are ongoing.

Baltimore Sun Guild Approves New Contract With Wage Freeze

Newsroom, advertising, and other employees at the Baltimore Sun approved a three-year contract that raises the company’s contribution to employee 401(k) plans but also freezes wages for the first two years, the Sun reports.

The third year will bring raises of about $10 a week.

The guild had recommended the yes vote, saying that the offer was better than what other journalists had gotten in recent years.

“We believe this is a good deal for all parties involved,” Timothy E. Ryan, president, publisher and CEO of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, said in a statement. “We have very positive momentum with our business plan at this time, and we are pleased to have the entire team stay focused on the significant opportunities for growth at hand.”

WGBH Makes Final Offer To Union

Nearly 300 writers, editors, production workers and marketing employees at WGBH have received their company’s final offer for a new contract, the Boston Globe reports.

Management wants to cut its company match for retirement plans by half and receive authority to redefine job descriptions, allowing WGBH to assign employees to work on multiple platforms. The company would also like to be able to outsource work without negotiations.

The union countered with the statement that cutting a company retirement match would be fine, but according to local president Jordan Weinstein, “if they retain the ability to outsource anything and everything, it would tend to make moot all the gains we made in other areas of the contract.”

The contract between union-covered public broadcast employees and WGBH expired in October; union members vote March 12 on this final offer. If the union rejects this proposal, WGBH will be able to declare impasse and implement whatever terms it likes.