Offer Worse Than Before
If accepted, the company's proposal would give management the right to change -- at will, at any time -- our wages, our health insurance coverage and how much we pay for it, paid holidays, vacation time and other benefits, starting Jan. 1, 2003.
The company has already shown -- with the illegal dropping of Blue Cross and Delta Dental, as well as the take-aways of the paid holiday and the third week of vacation for people with less than five years -- that it is willing to break the law in the face of an enforceable contract. Ask yourself what they'd do with an agreement that gave them free rein to do what they wanted.
The only thing that would temper their decisions on future benefit reductions would be the compassion of top management. You only have to look at the havoc they have wreaked on this paper over the past three years to know how much that counts for.
A little history:
On Feb. 20, days before the start of the National Labor Relations Board hearings, the company sent us what it said was a contract proposal. It offered a six-year deal partially retroactive to 2000. It offered a 2% bonus for the year 2000 and a 3% raise effective in 2001. (Back pay would be computed on only straight-time earnings.) It said our benefits would be pegged to what the Pressmen's and Teamsters union got. It did not describe the other unions' benefits package, however.
The Guild offered to postpone the hearing, meet and negotiate on the proposal. The company refused, calling our request to bargain a rejection of the proposal.
At the NLRB hearing, the judge directed the company and the Guild to meet and bargain. The Guild was ready. The company refused to meet with the Guild face-to-face and refused to answer questions regarding the proposal.
On March 6, (following the close of the hearing) the Guild made a simple, basic information request. We wanted to know exactly what the company was proposing. (We already knew the effect of the Company wage proposal. It was less than what the company proposed when the members overwhelmingly rejected the company offer in February 2000.)
On March 15, we received a reply, detailing how our benefits would be affected.
Based on the company response, it became apparent that the Feb. 20 proposal was designed to allow the company to unilaterally change or eliminate virtually all benefits.
Its language opens up areas where tentative agreements were already in place in the current negotiations, as well as subjects that were never previously in play.
For instance, the Guild and the company had already agreed on language that would allow the company to change health insurers, as long as the new coverage would be substantially the same as the old coverage. Under the Feb. 20 language, that protection is gone as of Jan. 1, 2003.
Other examples: Neither the company nor the Guild had proposed changing short-term disability, leaves of absence, bereavement pay, jury duty pay, or night shift differential.
Yet the company's Feb. 20 proposal specifically opens those areas up to possible changes at any time, without objection by the Guild.
It is worth noting that Guild members currently have a better maternity leave provision than non-Guild people. Our one-year maternity leave for full-time employees (13 weeks for part-timers) is in addition to the 6-8 week period of medical disability. For non-Guild people, the disability period is subtracted from the maternity leave.
The company's proposal would allow them to change the medical premium co-pay at any time. Our weekly co-payment is 15 percent. In Dallas, Belo workers' copay is 25 percent. How long do you think it would take the company to increase our copay by two-thirds of what we're paying now if we agree to the company proposal?
Cuts in vacation time. Elimination of night differential. Don't think it could happen? Just remember that the company stole vacation and holiday time from us in 2000. The difference is we still have a contract that gives us a legal way to fight back. But if we agree to the company's newest proposal, we would have to drop the legal actions we filed to recover what the company stole -- and agree to let them rob us again any time they please.
Only then it wouldn't be robbery, because we would have given it to them ourselves.
Read the correspondence
between your Guild negotiators and the company for yourself at the Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495