ON 3 ISSUES, GUILD SAYS
In their first meeting in four months, Guild and company negotiating teams Thursday held what the union described as "constructive" discussions about three recent workplace problems.
No agreements were reached. But ideas were exchanged across the table, and the parties agreed to meet again to see if the three problems can be resolved.
Guild negotiators noted that the tone of the talks was noticeably more cooperative than has been the case with many of the 18 negotiating sessions held during the past year-and-a-half aimed at reaching agreement on a new contract.
"At least on these issues, it was constructive," said Tim Schick, the Guild's administrator. "It is our hope that this approach can continue and expand to other areas."
GUILD OFFICIALS NOTED that the talks came in the face of new unfair labor practice charges that the union has filed on the three issues, and which are under review by the National Labor Relations Board.
The NLRB already has issued formal complaints against the company on 36 previous charges, matters that are to be aired at government hearings expected to begin this fall.
The three issues discussed Thursday were:
· A grievance contending that the company has improperly been using employees from other areas of the newspaper to work in Guild bargaining unit positions.
· The contention that the company hired four Chips Quinn Scholars interns this spring in the news department, rather than the contract's provision for a maximum of three in news and three in advertising.
· Concern about the removal of security guards from the lobby of The Journal Building.
Prior to the meeting Thursday, the company had asserted that it was under no federal obligation to discuss the issues, but was agreeing to meet to avoid litigation.
The Guild said all three matters are legal subjects of bargaining. Both sides said that if the discussions didn't work out, they would continue their previous positions.
Movement on both sides seemed most notable on the matter of the interns, who are hired in the summer under a national program named for the late Journal editor Chips Quinn and open to minority and women college students.
Richard A. Perras, the lawyer who is the lead Journal negotiator, acknowledged that a literal reading of the contract indicated that the company was not in compliance with the number of interns allowed in news.
The Guild does not object to the employment of more than three interns. But to comply with the contract, the extra interns must work in the advertising department.
Two of the interns left shortly after they arrived this year, and two remain. Perras said that the company has no plans to bring in more at this point.
Perras proposed that next year, the company would like to bring in as many as six Quinn interns, to be apportioned as the company wishes between advertising and news, and it would be willing to raise their pay from the current 65 percent of base Guild pay to 70 percent.
The Guild counter proposed that the pay be hiked to 70 percent this year. The company said it would consider that idea before the next meeting.
ANOTHER ISSUE DISCUSSED was the use of non-Guild workers in bargaining unit jobs.
There have been three instances in recent months in which the company, which is consolidating some non-union departments and eliminating jobs, has used displaced employees in Guild-covered posts.
The company contends that it is allowed to use these workers in Guild jobs as it would irregular extra employees, except they are not covered by the contract.
The Guild said it has disagreed in the past about the company's excessive use of irregular extras, and in any case, the displaced workers should be covered by the Guild contract.
After a caucus of the Guild bargaining team, the union proposed that the company be permitted to re-deploy workers in such situations, but no more than three at one time, and that no such individual be placed in that fashion for more than six months in any two-year period. The alternative, the Guild suggested, would be to permanently transfer the workers to the bargaining unit.
The company said it would take that idea under advisement.
THE THIRD MATTER INVOLVED the recent removal of security guards from the lobby of the main building.
The company said there are still guards on patrol through and outside the building, and that they can be summoned by calling Extension 7989.
Further, Perras said that a hot-line phone connection has been made to the guards from the lobby information desk normally staffed by Kathy Burdick.
Guards continue to be available to escort employees to their cars, and the company encourages workers to schedule escorts in advance of ending their shifts.
Thursday's meeting was held in the company's Human Resources Department conference room. It began at 3 p.m. and lasted for 1-1/2 hours, including three caucuses.
Representing the Guild were Bob Jagolinzer, union president; Kerry Korhing; Del St. Jean; Lisa Helwig; Ged Carbone; and Schick.
Representing the company were Tom McDonough, human resources director; Pat Welker and Perras.
The last negotiating session about a new contract was Feb. 14.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495