Times publisher to Guild members: I don't care
In response to the letter signed by more than 600 of his employees and the impressive show of Guild solidarity on Monday, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. had his negotiating team deliver his response on Tuesday: He doesn't care.
Times management decided to answer Guild members' demonstration of profound unhappiness Monday—let’s call it a solidarity break—by throwing a tantrum and taking two provocative actions Tuesday.
First, the management team walked out of contract negotiations after only 10 minutes. Second, late in the day, management informed the Guild that it intends to make a “final offer” on Thursday, as well as canceling Wednesday’s scheduled negotiating session.
This means management will try to ratchet up the pressure by taking a step that, conceivably, could take us to the brink of impasse. For now, however, a so called “final offer” is just another reckless step that is much in keeping with management’s sorry track record during this negotiation.
Our mobilizing committee met this evening to discuss all of these events, and will soon get in touch with members.
But as to today’s session: When your Guild negotiating team asked why The Times has offered zero for 2011 and at best a 1 percent raise for the last two months of 2012, attorney Bernie Plum, the hired hand, replied with what felt like calculated incitement.
“This is a declining industry and a declining business,” he told the union negotiating committee. It is common for management to demand concessions and “even more common to have zeros.”
In other words, we should smile and bow if management offers us anything more than zero. To state the obvious, senior management survives on quite a bit more than zero raises and zero bonuses, and our new CEO reportedly will find his way in New York City on a seven-figure salary.
Management raised its offers a touch on health care and wages last week, and so the Guild made two counter-offers today. We lowered our wage demand for 2012 from 4 percent to 3.75 percent, and we cut by about $750,000 our demand for increased management contributions to our health plan over the next three years.
Guild President Bill O’Meara made clear to The Times team that members are very unhappy with the company’s intransigence, and that we are prepared to make our unhappiness known again and again until they bargain more realistically.
O’Meara viewed the management walkout today with a theater critic’s eye. “That was planned,” he told the committee and other Guild members who served as observers. “They were on a stage. They wanted to deflate our members after Monday’s action.”
So where are we? We’ll see what management offers on Thursday.
For now, The Times continues to offer 5.5 percent on our pension plan, about half the current contribution, which would make the plan not viable. It offers far less than is needed to keep our health plan solvent, which would force members to foot the whole bill for increased premiums. And its wage offers dwell in a ugly sub-basement, well beneath the rate of inflation.
Just before walking out, Plum stated: “We’re done. Have a nice day.”
It was the most pleasant four words that management offered on Tuesday.