Romenesko misc.
The new, 33-month contract would give Guild members three 1.5 percent raises and make changes to retirement benefits. Management wouldn't agree to a no-layoff pledge, according to the Guild, but new language prevents staff from being laid off and replaced with stringers or freelancers. Guild President Tony Winton tells members, "The bargaining committee believes this is the best deal possible short of more intense mobilization activities, up to and including a strike."

In a brief statement, Jessica Bruce, AP's vice president for human resources, said that with the agreement in place, staff can "focus their attention and energy on the initiatives critical to driving revenue so that AP can stay competitive and maintain its leadership in the media marketplace." || Related: New York City Council members tell Reuters they're troubled by union-busting.

Previous coverage:
> AP union: Managers are threatening mass layoffs if proposals aren’t accepted
> AP union takes "important step" in negotiation, but...
> AP: Why we need to reduce our pension obligation
> Why you won’t see as many AP stories tweeted on Monday, Tuesday

Full memo to Guild members after the jump.

Tentative Agreement with AP

The Guild and The Associated Press reached a tentative agreement in a 33-month contract after six months of talks with the company. The agreement will be mailed out for a ratification vote shortly. The Editorial and Technology units will vote in separate referenda, according the the Guild's by-laws. If approved, the contract would expire Aug. 31, 2013.

The bargaining committee believes this is the best deal possible short of more intense mobilization activities, up to and including a strike.

WAGES: Three, 1.5% wage increases. The first will by payable after ratification. The second is 9/1, and the third is 9/1/2012. Combined, the wage increases will amount to an increase of 4.56 percent over the life of the agreement.

PENSION: The existing pension plan will be frozen on 7/1. Employees in the pension will receive the retirement benefit they have earned through that date, but the benefit will no longer grow.

The DC [defined contribution] plan, which will now cover all employees as of 7/1, will have a 6% employer contribution for all employees.

For people in the DB [defined benefit] plan, there will be an additional 1 % if they have under 10 years of service, and an additional 2% if they have over 10 years of service. These payments are non-cancelable for 8 years. During that period, if an employee hits the 10-year mark, he/she will get the 2% rate. This "sweetener" only applies to people whose pension is being frozen. The Guild pressed to extend the sweetener to the entire unit, but the AP refused.

The 401k match will be eliminated, but employees can make contributions to the plan as they do now, on the same tax-deferred basis. (The money that AP was putting into the match is being shifted into the DC plan - no one is "losing" any money.)

This was an important objective for the union, for three reasons. First, there are 400 employees who do not get the full 3% available in the 401k plan. Second, it no longer ties an employee's personal financial situation to the amount of money paid by the employer. Everyone gets the full 3%, added on top of the existing 3% in the DC, for a total of 6% of pay. Third, it reduces the chance that an employee's contributions will be "returned" if the 401k plan flunks IRS discrimination tests. This has happened three times in the past.

MEDICAL: Current rates will be frozen for both units through the life of the contract. Additionally, AP agreed not to "true up" the costs in a future bargaining (i.e. say that employees had to "make good" for employer "losses")

LAYOFFS: The Guild proposed a no-layoff clause. AP rejected it.

JOB SECURITY: There are a number of important improvements. First, new language will prevent AP from laying off staff and replacing them with stringers or freelancers. Second, there will be no "second probation period" if, after a layoff, a staffer is reassigned to new work. Third, there is a severance enhancement for One-person correspondents.

VACATION: Newly hired employees will get 3 days of vacation after three months of employment. All employees will be guaranteed of having a full week of vacation adjacent to their regular days off at least twice a year (current language only provides this guarantee only once a year)

TRAINING: AP will pay for job-related education and training, if the employer approves. The employer will not unreasonably deny such requests.

These are the major issues. There are a number of other contract improvements, including changes to the following articles and subjects: jurisdiction, checkoff, dismissal pay, transfers, expenses, scheduling, holidays, broadcast talent differentials, leaves of absence, sick leave, life and business travel insurance, technician certifications, miscellaneous, and health and safety. More details will be provided shortly.

In Unity,

Tony Winton
News Media Guild
TNG-CWA Local 31222