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Eight ways Times management's proposed contract would hurt

02/24/2011

Guild negotiators wait for Times management representatives to take their seats before the second day of contract talks at the Guild's offices on Feb. 24.
Guild negotiators await management on Feb. 24

The contract proposal, made two weeks ago by representatives of Times Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson, lays out distinct changes to the current Guild contract that would allow management to take more control over your personal schedule, pay you less for more work and sharply curtail benefits such as health care and pension. The combined effects of the company’s proposals would reduce your income and erode your quality of life.

We have summarized eight proposals that, if enacted as Times executives want, would change the lives of Guild members for the worse. Here’s how:  

1. Freeze the pension plan: Top management wants to reduce funding employees’ pensions and force members to retire on whatever pension benefit they’ve accrued so far. That means pension plan participants would not receive credit for future service. So, for instance, a 35-year-old employee with 10 years of service might have now earned a $500 monthly pension benefit. But, because the plan is frozen, he or she could never earn more, no matter how many additional years of service are given to The Times.

2. Eliminate the Guild health care plan: Times management wants to eliminate members’  jointly-trusteed health care plan and move members over to the plan run solely by the company. That change would certainly mean members would pay more and get less each year. For example, the current management plan does not offer 100 percent coverage even if you stay in network, while the Guild plan does. The Times’s proposal also means that management would have unchecked control over benefits, the terms of coverage, reimbursement levels for both in and out of network health care coverage and how much each employee must pay for health care. This unilateral control would almost certainly lead to lower quality health care and at a higher price.

3. Freeze wages for the life of the proposed two-year contract: Management doesn’t care if the prices you pay for groceries, heating fuel, college tuition, commuting and property taxes all continue rising. A two-year wage freeze would be, in effect, another form of a wage cut and greatly erode our ability to make ends meet.

4. Increase the work week: Times managers want to increase the work week to 40 hours and, as a result, cut Guild members’ pay on an hourly basis. That’s because there were would be no extra compensation of any kind for the extra 5 hours of work. In addition, because each department would have more employee-hours to work with, The Times might be able to lay off some staff members.

5. Eliminate daily overtime pay: Management wants to pay employees at the straight-time rate no matter how many hours are worked in a day, and to pay overtime only after employees have worked 40 hours in a week. That means, you could work 12 hours on Monday and be told to work only four hours another day so your manager can keep you under 40 hours for the week and avoid paying overtime. What’s more, holidays, sick days and vacation days would not count toward the 40-hour work week. So, in a week when there’s one paid holiday, or if you’re sick, you must make up those additional hours on regular work days in order to reach your 40-hour limit to qualify for overtime. Also, increasing the work week to 40 hours means the first 5 hours of overtime could not be saved as comp time to be taken in the future.

6. Eliminate all shift differentials: Times managers no longer want to reward employees who work until midnight or start working before 7 a.m. For employees who regularly work nights (that’s any shift starting between 1 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.) that would result in an immediate $3,762.20 annual pay cut. For employees who regularly work any shift starting between midnight and 6:59 a.m., this would result in an immediate $5,015.40 yearly pay cut.

7. Assign employees to work for any unit of The Times Company: Times executives want to increase employees’ workloads for no additional compensation by assigning them to work for any unit in The Times family. For example, an advertising salesperson could be assigned to sell ads for the Boston Globe. A reporter could be assigned to write copy for About.com.  All with no extra compensation.

8. Eliminate employment security protections: Management wants the right to lay off any employee for any reason and to stop the Guild from filing grievances or arbitrating on employees’ behalf. While the current job security language does not give any employee 100 percent protection from layoff, it does require Times managers to follow a protocol and justify their decision in the event layoffs are necessary. 

These are just a few of the far-reaching, draconian demands that Times executives are making.  The Guild will have more to say about the rest of management’s proposals in coming weeks.

Stay tuned.

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