Times negotiator tells Guild current pension plan must go
At a full negotiating session between the Guild and Times management today, the Times’s lead negotiator, outside lawyer Bernard Plum, stated unequivocally, “The pension plan you’re in has to go.” He added that there would be no contract agreement unless there is “a solution to the pension issue.”
Guild President Bill O’Meara countered that the prevailing feeling of our members was not to make such an onerous concession in light of former CEO Janet Robinson’s reported $21 million buyout package, which included a full pension. Plum responded: “I’m not interested in the prevailing sentiment. I don’t care; emotions don’t matter.”
Times management said it was willing to listen to alternatives to its proposed pension freeze. O’Meara said that the Guild was working on alternatives, but also that “members have to know they’re getting a fair deal.”
“The pension would be a very big ‘give,’ especially since members see that the company has plenty of money for departing executives but not for those who produce the Times product,” O’Meara said.
Also today, Times negotiators said they agreed with several major concepts the Guild offered in response to their “new initiatives” proposal. Significantly, it was agreed that outside hires for any new initiative would be Guild-represented from the start, and that current Times employees would get first consideration for any new job opportunities. Such new initiatives would include “any form of content or other product that the Times either has not created, distributed or sold before.”
On the subcommittee front, progress has been made over the last several weeks in the four groups charged with resolving 22 contract proposals from both sides. Tentative agreements have been reached concerning the accrual and payout of comp time, trial periods, experience credit, training programs, bulletin board/Guild communications and the excluded list. There are still, however, a handful of larger issues being discussed in subcommittee on which the two parties are still far apart. Among them are work schedules, including the 12-hour turnaround time; start differential; and reclassification pay.
In addition there are still several major issues on the bargaining table that have yet to be resolved, including the length of the workweek, additional company contributions to the Guild-Times Benefits Fund that provides health insurance, and wage increases, among other items.