Guild: New York Times is trying to force ‘impasse’ in contract talks

The Newspaper Guild of New York
The Guild told its members Tuesday that it believes The New York Times is trying to kill contract talks so that it can impose harsh terms on its employees without coming to an agreement with the union. On Tuesday, according to the Guild, the company “dropped a bomb” on contract negotiations by suddenly presenting proposals for two separate contracts, one for print employees and another for digital.

Until now, both sides have been working toward a single contract to replace the two agreements that expired in March 2011. The process has been complicated because the digital contract is less generous than the print one, and the company wants the union to agree to terms closer to that contract. About 1,000 employees are covered by the print contract; 100 by the digital one.

The Guild told its members that the “hostile” move would undo months of work, including its proposal to create a new type of pension plan that would protect the company from runaway costs but still provide a monthly payment for retirees for life.

Management’s dual-contract demand apparently is a legal maneuver to preserve its option to declare the talks at “impasse” – a rarely used draconian move that would enable management to impose its “last, best” contract offer on members. At this point, that would include a pension freeze, a longer workweek, imperiling the health and benefits plan with a lack of funding and a change for the worse in any number of work rules.

“Let’s be clear,” [Guild President Bill] O’Meara told management negotiators. “What you’re really trying to do is set us up so that you can go to impasse on us.”

The Guild said it would go to the National Labor Relations Board to fight a declaration of an impasse, and it will file new grievances regarding digital employees who are doing the work of members covered by the print contract.

When the Times offered buyouts in October, it excluded its digital employees because, according to O’Meara, “that’s the way the industry is going.” O’Meara said the Guild agreed with the company that employees should share print and Web duties.

“There were protections put in place many years ago to make sure the print side people were not negatively impacted by the digital work,” O’Meara said. Now “we both agree that we should be platform-agnostic at this point, to the extent possible.”

Earlier: NYT guild members have ‘quiet’ protest outside Page One meeting (Poynter) | Journalists criticize company’s decision to freeze pension plan, call for progress in contract negotiations in videos (The Huffington Post, JimRomenesko.com) | New York Times’ buyouts, contract negotiations show newsroom shift to Web (Poynter)

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