In contract talks, Times takes baby steps that don't go far enough
The Times’s chief negotiator says the clock is ticking, but unfortunately the company’s movement so far can be better tracked with a sundial than a stopwatch.
Despite an exchange of counterproposals today, the Guild and Times management are still far apart on the major issues – wages, pension and health care. Because The Times has set the bar so low since negotiations began – offering virtually nothing but givebacks instead of increases – it remains difficult to close the gap.
The Guild began talks today by taking more than $3 million off the table in the form of proposed company health care contributions. After the Guild made its counterproposal, Times negotiators added just one half-percent to the three 1-percent wage increases they had on the table. (They still are not offering any retroactive pay.)
On medical, The Times increased its proposal to make additional contributions to the health care fund to $800,000 in 2013, $900,000 in 2014 and $1 million in 2015 (from $500,000, $600,000 and $700,000, respectively). This is still far below what is needed to avoid future wage diversions to keep our benefits. The company currently contributes about 6 percent of payroll to the Benefits Fund, which is far below the industry standard.
Finally, the company increased its proposed contribution to the Guild’s Adjustable Pension Plan (APP) to $5.5 million, up $500,000 from its previous offer. Again, this is far below what experts say is needed to provide a reasonable retirement benefit for members. The company still refuses to include new hires in the APP, which the Guild has insisted is a nonstarter since it would doom the plan.
New York Guild President Bill O’Meara said he recognized the company’s movement but added, “It’s not enough to get us where we need to be” to achieve a reasonable settlement.
The pace of talks picks up next week with three consecutive negotiating sessions scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Observers will be welcome, and a sign-up sheet for Tuesday’s 1 p.m. session (which will be held at the company’s law firm, Proskauer, across 41st Street from The Times) will be emailed soon.