Bargaining: Guild rejects AP’s wage offer, talks on hold

The bargaining committee wanted to catch everyone up fully on what happened yesterday and the background.
AP approached us nearly two weeks ago to bargain off the record with the hopes of reaching a deal by Dec. 15. They claimed that they had some extra money they had to spend by the end of the year due to accounting restraints and they were eager to work fast.

The Guild took the opportunity to see what could be worked out. You saw some of the key wins we secured earlier this week as we moved quickly and efficiently to get better paid parental leave benefits, vacations, sick leave, and AI protections, with the discussion over economic issues pushed until Friday.

The AP rejected the guild’s proposal on reimbursement for personal drone use by photo/video staff, and also rejected the proposal to cover expenses for employees forced to work at home because of office closures. They reiterated their proposal stands to end any existing side deals to cover any such costs. They did say they will continue to cover costs for office supplies (i.e paper, pens, pads), and provide such employees with a laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse.

In the technology unit, we resolved the last remaining issues, reaching agreement on a training side letter, and agreements on job security language and coverage changes involving new job titles and merging of org units.

The AP dropped its proposals to eliminate night/Sunday differentials, and to mandate 40-hour workweeks. They also agreed to add Seattle, Miami, Portland and Sacramento to the list of cities receiving Class A city differentials. And they agreed to elevate the differential editorial assistants/photo assistants/etc receive to the same as newspersons in all Class A cities. The company also agreed to no increases in health care premiums for 2024, and cap any increases to 5% in 2025 and 5% in 2026. These are all great gains.

On wages, the company initially tweaked their proposal to include a 2.5% raise in the first year, and  2% raises in each of the second and third
years, with a $1,750 lump sum as soon as possible after ratification. The Guild objected, saying that the proposed raises were still way too low and wouldn’t pass a membership vote. We also said members do not want a lump sum and they should put that amount into percentages in the wage increases.

The company responded by standing pat on the wage increases, while increasing the lump sum to $2,000. The Guild was rather appalled, and again said it wouldn’t pass a membership vote and repeated that the lump sum should be converted to a percentage in raises. We suggested the company could possibly provide a lower raise in the first year and then have time to budget for larger raises in the second and third years.

The company refused to budge. We asked the company to prove they could not go more, they refused and added that they could not convert a one-time bonus into a raise.

The company instead said that we needed to consider the raises in the context of everything we had secured previously that week, stressing that the no increase in health insurance rates for the first year the contract was in place would compensate for the minimal raise. The Guild acknowledged that we had made historic wins, but despite all of that, the most important issue our members have told us to focus on is money.

We worked until nearly midnight, and ultimately, we told them we could not accept their deal.