Vol XI, No. 11TNG/CWA Local 31041January 26, 2000



A Guild membership vote has been scheduled on the company's contract proposal outlined at Monday's bargaining session.

Both the executive board and the negotiating committee are recommending that the proposal be rejected with a "no" vote.

The executive board scheduled the secret paper ballot vote for a two-day period, Wednesday, Feb. 2 and Thursday, Feb. 3, in order to give members the maximum chance to vote.

In addition, the contract issues will be discussed at two membership meetings on Wednesday, Feb. 2, the first one at 12:30 p.m., the other at 5 p.m. The meeting will be at the Guild office.

The ballot box voting will start at the beginning of the first membership meeting, and voting will continue into the evening, and all-day the following day, until 5 p.m. Provisions for absentee ballots are also being made, for people who are out of town, or otherwise unable to cast their ballots in person.

This is the same schedule that had been provided for the membership meetings and voting on a proposed work-to-rule action.

The executive board has decided to postpone the work-to-rule decision until after the membership vote on the company's contract proposal. Likewise, a rally originally scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 27, has been postponed until after the contract vote. The company described its proposal at the 14th bargaining session on Monday as its "last, best and final" offer.

The negotiating committee and executive board believe that the company proposal as it stands is not acceptable in a number of key areas.

It does not contain either the Belo pension or 401k plans - benefits that the Guild believes are generally superior to the Providence Journal Co. versions. The Belo plans are currently provided for non-Guild workers.

Further, the company's proposed medical insurance program is inferior to the current contract provisions, which caps the rate of increase in employee contributions to premiums.

Also, the company's medical proposal would allow the newspaper to switch the medical plans that it offers now to "substantially equivalent" benefits - but company negotiators refused to define what that means.

As it stands, the medical plans currently in the company proposal - and the Guild believes illegally imposed on the membership even before a new contract is agreed to - are inferior to the plans provided in the current contract, even without the now-defunct Harvard Pilgrim health plan.

These new plans, which require a higher premium co-payment, offer less choice, and they are accompanied by sharply-boosted user fees for doctors' office visits, drugs and other benefits.

There are numerous other negativeproposals.

The company has proposed eliminating one of two existing personal holidays - that the equivalent of a lost day's pay; and would make new employees wait five years to be eligible for three weeks of vacation, rather than the current three-year waiting period. These take-backs from current benefits are accompanied by no substantial improvements. The company has offered 3 percent salary increases in each of three years; it would boost benefits of long-term disability insurance and travel accident insurance, and would allow use of three days of sick time for "family" rather than just for "personal" illness. Another supposed improvement is problematic because the company won't put it in writing: the provision of "free" parking.

While the company has extended this to non-Guild workers, it also has told the Guild that it would provide it to the bargaining unit, parking "may be changed or eliminated by the company."

Similarly, the company has proposed reopening negotiations to discuss benefits between the second and third years of the contract. But there is no guarantee of what the result would be.

Thus, the executive board and negotiating committees believe that the company's contract proposal worsens benefits, leaves members vulnerable to skyrocketing medical costs, takes away some benefits without improving others and fails to guarantee some "benefits" it purports to offer.

Why You Should Vote NO

Why You Should Vote NO

The executive board and negotiating committee are calling for a "no" vote Feb. 2 & 3 on the company's contract proposal. Here are some of the reasons:

* Worse medical benefits. The company would be free to substitute new plans for the higher-cost, inferior plans already imposed. It would be able to require higher premium contributions, with no cap on the rate of increase.

* No pension or 401k plan improvements. The company has extended Belo pension and 401k plans to other workers, but refuses to provide them for the Guild.

* Eliminates one holiday.

* Delays entitlement to a third week of vacation, stretching the waiting period from 3 years to 5.

* Fails to prevent use of temporary workers in pre-publishing; boosts operators' pay, but reduces the pay of newly-hired specialists in that problem-ridden department.

* No employee voice in ad incentive plans.

* Wipes out employee grievances. The Company is demanding that the Guild drop virtually all pending grievances.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495