BARGAINING: Guild, AP discuss Remote Work, Expenses

June 25, 2022

Bargaining between the News Media Guild and The Associated Press continued this week with sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss a new contract for the Guild’s editorial and technology units, which expires on June 30.

The Guild proposed a new article concerning remote work because there has not been equal implementation of the AP’s current policy and having terms spelled out in a contract would provide employees security and equality. The proposal, based on mutual consent between employees and managers, included reimbursement for employees purchasing equipment for home office setups, $65 monthly stipend for increased at-home expenses such as internet and electricity use, no additional third day in the office, and no in-office requirement in locations with fewer than four employees. The Guild stressed that burden of proof that an employee cannot work remote should fall on the company because employees have all successfully proved that they can work remote over the past two-plus years. The AP’s representatives responded the company would need input from other business leaders and subject matter leaders in order to provide a correct and consistent answer, and added that they believe there are very few ‘one-size fits all’ approaches on this topic. The AP also pointed to it’s FAQ on Remote Work that was released in April.

The Guild also advanced a proposal on Expenses (Article 16) seeking to increase the daily rate for using personal cars on assignments from $15 to $20.60, matching one-fifth of the current weekly rate. The proposal also included a clause that would require the company to maintain paid parking for employees. When asked if that would mean the AP would have to provide free parking in locations like New York City, the Guild acknowledged there were cities the requirement wouldn’t make sense, but wanted to open a discussion because there were offices that changed locations where free parking was previously provided or available but not in the new locations. The Guild also asked for information on how the weekly car allowance for videographers and photographers is being administered now that the pandemic is behind.

The AP said it’s response to the Expenses proposal would be tied to remote work, transfers and relocations. The company also added that in locations where offices remained, the preference would be to spend money on equipment there. The AP also said it’s initial reaction to Remote Work was it viewed it more and administrative function, rather than a term for the contract.

The AP said it wanted to look at the various differentials and determine if some should rolled into base pay for those currently receiving it and eliminated going forward. The AP said evening and Sunday differentials, for example, become less important in a remote work environment because they were designed to compensate for the burden or inconvenience of getting to/from work at inconvenient hours. The Guild responded that employees viewed it as compensation for having to work outside normal business hours while missing family and social events, and those that haven’t worked nights and weekends don’t understand the impact it has on personal lives.

Representing the Guild were Vin Cherwoo of New York Sports; Michelle Monroe, a newsperson on the West Desk; John Braunreiter, a customer support specialist in Milwaukee; Guild administrative officer Kevin Keane; and Guild staff representative Luis Espinosa-Organista.

Representing the AP were attorney Steve Macri; Teresita Seeberger, senior director of global human resources; David Scott, vice president of news strategy and operations; Keisa Caesar, human resources manager; Jean Maye, human resources director; and Sue Gilkey, global director of employee benefits.

Talks will resume Thursday, June 30.