Vol XIl, Issue 34 TNG/CWA Local 31041 June 27, 2001

Early negotiations preserve staffing guarantees, plus high salaries
Company uses new agreement to lash out at the Guild
Guild believes its own contract fight helped Pressmen gain leverage

The Pressmen's union has negotiated a new, 8-year contract with The Providence Journal that guarantees most of that union's 40 jobs and maintains its members' high salaries.

The Guild said that the Pressmen deserve congratulations for achieving a contract that meets the union's needs and preserves benefits that include pay levels that reportedly average 75 percent more than those paid to the average Guild worker.

The typical Pressman makes about $75,000 a year under this system

The Guild also believes that the Pressmen benefited from the Guild's protracted contract dispute with the company, which motivated the company to seek settlement on terms favorable to the Pressmen.

The company sought to negotiate the pact with the Pressmen six months before the union's current 10-year pact was to expire at the end of the year, a sign that the Guild's own contract dispute influenced the other talks.

"Because of the open Guild contract, the company decided to offer them a continuation for 8 years,'' said Tim Schick, Guild administrator. "This contract, which the Pressmen feel is a very good deal, preserves much of what they had -- because of the Guild.''

The company took the unusual step of sending a letter to all company employees announcing the settlement with the Pressmen -- and to criticize the Guild, which has maintained that The Journal and its Texas owner, Belo Corp., are anti-union and out to weaken or destroy the Guild.

"This further reinforces the fact that we are ready, willing and able to reach agreement with reasonable people who have realistic expectations, and who want to help this company continue to grow and prosper,'' Howard G. Sutton, publisher, said in a letter to "Fellow Employees.''

However, Schick said that prior to the company's offer to open talks early with the Pressmen, the union was concerned the company would move to attack its strong job-protection system and its high pay benefits.

AS IT TURNED OUT, the company suggested opening the talks a half-year early, laying out terms that the Pressmen's union found favorable.

"The company wanted to lock down a new contract and get bragging rights that showed that it could deal with other unions,'' Schick said.

The Pressmen's previous contract was a 10-year agreement that contained key benefits that the union traded for important concessions to the company, and the new pact continues the pattern.


· The new contract continues a strong "manning'' provision that guarantees a stated level of jobs. The old contract guaranteed 40 journeymen posts. The new contract allows the number to drop to 32, with the 8 fewer guaranteed positions achieved through normal attrition, such as retirement. Even with the changes, the Providence Pressmen's manning provision is considered one of the best in the newspaper industry.

· Also continued is a unique method of guaranteeing high wages. The Pressmen have a four-day workweek, with a guaranteed fifth day of work if workers wish it. The fifth day is paid at a rate of 1½ normal pay, plus differentials.

According to sources in The Journal's payroll office, the typical Pressman makes about $75,000 a year under this system.

As a tradeoff, the new pact continues a Pressmen's concession that allows the company to change medical insurance coverage terms and other fringe benefits at will.

Also, the Pressmen do not negotiate on pay raises, but agree to whatever the company decides to pay non-union workers at the newspaper.

One of the differences between the company's negotiations with the Guild and with the Pressmen is its approach, Schick said.

In its negotiations with the Pressmen, as well as a unit of Teamsters, the company has respected federal labor law. With the Pressmen, for example, it reached agreement before it changed contract terms.

BUT WITH THE GUILD, the company has flouted the law on numerous occasions, forcing the 500 members of the bargaining unit to work under new conditions -- such as new medical plans and less holiday and vacation benefits -- before a new agreement has been reached.

The result has been complaints brought by the National Labor Relations Board that the company has violated the law in 36 instances, charges that will be tested during a court-like hearing later this year before an administrative law judge.

IN ITS GUILD NEGOTIATIONS, which began Oct. 28, 1999, two months before expiration of the contract, the company has tried to dictate benefits and other provisions in a take-it-or-leave-it approach.

"Our members made clear they don't want unilateral changes in their fringe benefits,'' Schick said.

"The Pressmen maintained protection of the benefits that are very important to them,'' Schick said. "We congratulate them.''

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