Times agrees to discuss profit sharing
CONTRACT TALKS UPDATE:
In an unexpected turn of events, corporate management's negotiation team today actually committed to address one of the Guild's most important proposals: a profit sharing plan. This disclosure came after 16 months of bargaining, during which time management had shown little or no interest in discussing Guild demands.
After outside lawyer Bernard Plum, the Times’s lead negotiator, spent a significant amount of time today complaining about the lack of progress in talks, New York Guild President Bill O’Meara suggested that fruitful discussions concerning the Guild’s profit sharing proposal, first presented to The Times in March 2011, could help jump-start the process.
After a brief caucus, the Times came back with a surprising announcement: That it was interested in and had been “working on for some time” what Plum termed “a supplemental compensation system tied to The New York Times’s performance.” He added that Times negotiators would return with a comprehensive counterproposal on a profit sharing plan within the next couple of bargaining sessions (scheduled for June 15 and 19).
O’Meara said the Guild was pleased that The Times was finally willing to commit to a form of profit sharing. “What took you so long?” he asked Plum, reminding him that a stated willingness to consider profit sharing could have sped up the negotiating process months ago. Up until today, The Times had dismissed the idea of any sort of plan, and expressed no interest in any of the Guild’s proposals as long as the pension issue is not resolved.
On the pension front, the two sides have agreed to meet with the IRS as soon as possible to see if it would approve the "Adjustable Pension Plan," an idea floated by the Guild to retain a defined-benefit pension plan. Until the IRS indicates that the plan is viable, the Guild will not consider involving it in any formal proposal. The Times has indicated it might consider such a plan, provided it wins IRS approval.
While the Guild has been working to see if a compromise on the pension issue is possible, knowing it’s the company's main goal in reaching an overall contract agreement, O’Meara pointed out that any change at all from the current plan would be a huge concession on the part of members, especially in light of a reported secret pension plan for senior New York Times executives.
"From the Guild's point of view, our members need to see considerable progress on the Guild's major priorities, such as profit sharing, decent wage increases and the long-term viability of our health plan, if they are to agree to give the company some relief on pension funding issues," O'Meara said.