The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia

Talks going nowhere

The Guild Bargaining Committee met with Daily Times publisher Frank Gothie Thursday afternoon in the second bargaining session – if one can call it that.

The last meeting between the two sides concluded with the guild asking the company to be more specific about their vague proposals that included a wage cut of undetermined proportions, a change in health care with the company having final say in the percentage breakdown on premium payments, and finally a proposed furlough (unpaid vacation) for up to two weeks.

The company returned to the table today without anything the Guild asked for.

Oh, they offered a few subtle changes to the proposal – namely that their proposal wouldn’t take effect until November 25th, rather than November 1st (no kidding, right?) and they added a few other words that changed the language of their proposals, but didn’t actually change the substance of it.

“I don’t know if I have anything more to give you because no one knows where the industry is headed,” Gothie said. “So, putting caps or limits on anything doesn’t make sense to us. I don’t think we can modify and restrict our position because we are in dire straights and have to be ready to turn on a dime. We’re seeing things we’ve never had to deal with. So, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we did it any other way.”

To which the guild told the company we wouldn’t be doing ours if we accepted their ridiculous proposals.

The one thing the company did do was provide the Guild with a comparative health care proposal between our current plan and the one the company has. The company’s plan would save singles and couples $22 and $32 a week respectively but would increase the costs for anyone with children as much as $47 a week. Oh, and the out of pocket expenses would double. These figures are also pre-premium increases that are expected (about 30%) come January 1.

This is also unacceptable.

The biggest problem the Guild had with the documentation provided by the company was the breakdown of what current members enrolled in the health plan are paying as part of the premium. While many members were under the impression that we were all paying 40 percent of our premium individually, Gothie told us that we only pay 40 percent collectively and that individuals are paying a varying percentage of their premium. What does that mean? Here, let’s spell it out:

Single folks (34 in all) are paying $71.93 a week, or 51 percent of your premium, not 40 percent.
The only folks actually paying 40 percent of their premium are parent/child (1 person) and husband/wife (9 in all).
The remaining 16 members who insure multiple children or families are paying slightly less than 40 percent.

The guild distinctly remembered bargaining an equal share into the contract. The company remembered otherwise. There is conflicting legalese written in our contract that supports both sides. (Gotta love lawyers who write in grey, not black and white).

After a lengthy caucus and a review of the entire insurance debacle with former Guild leader and negotiator Mary Lynn Wisniewski and long-time employee Frank Renzi, the Guild returned to the table with the company and expressed great displeasure in all of the proceedings – the confusion with the insurance, the lack of a response from the company to our request, and the continued crying poor by a company which still turns a profit at the Daily Times.

The only good to come out of the meeting was a verbal agreement by the company to plan on continuing to negotiate in good faith beyond November 25th if in fact bargaining were to extend beyond the date of the contract’s expiration.

However, the company showed no inclination on budging very far, if at all, beyond what they’ve already proposed.

“Unless there is an epiphany of revenue in the next few weeks, we have to be able to manage the expenses side of things quickly and in a viable manner,” Gothie said.

As far as the Guild is concerned, they’ll have to come up with another way, because this approach will never fly.

No new date was scheduled for negotiations, but both sides agreed to reconvene within the next two weeks.

In solidarity,

The Bargaining Team
Anthony Sanfilippo, Unit Chair, Editorial,
Cindy Scharr, Vice Chair, Editorial
Rob Parent, Sec/Treas, Editorial
Gil Spencer, At large, Editorial
Suzanne Cavanaugh, Advertising
Frank Leonetti, Circulation
Bill Ross, Newspaper Guild