After a backward move, a sideways shuffle and a marathon song and dance, contract negotiations ended up Tuesday without achieving much harmony. Still, we made some progress. We refocused the bargaining on our key priorities: reasonable salary increases, equitable pay, a 401(k) match, and no loss of sick leave or other benefits already in our contract.
The Guild committee started negotiations with management representatives on Monday, Nov. 27, with the Guild reiterating members’ anguish over unexpected health care premium hikes of up to 52 percent, which effectively stalled negotiations. On Tuesday morning, the company acknowledged that it had made a mistake, promising to announce new numbers soon and extending Health Care Open Enrollment through Friday, Dec. 8.
Later Tuesday, management sent an email to members with the corrected health care premium amounts. We still didn’t like them. Families opting for the Kaiser plan, for example, face a 17 percent premium increase, adding up to $7,608 annually to payroll deductions. The Kaiser family increase of $1,104 per year would effectively wipe out a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase. That’s why the Guild intends to factor health care premium increases into any economic settlement.
Also on Tuesday, the Guild put together a package proposal reflecting our most important goals and resolving all contract disputes and outstanding grievances. We honed our vision of a new contract to key priorities in hopes the company would do the same – and finally get real with its numbers.
That didn’t happen.
In our package proposal, we offered to give up some things that we care a lot about in order to advance the process and reach common ground. For example, we said we would be willing to accept management’s proposed new short-term disability program as long as current employees could keep their existing sick banks. We also offered to keep contract terms on vacation, workdays and layoffs, even though those provisions no longer make sense since the company regained profitability. We were disappointed that the management was unable to offer specific responses.
Management said it needed more time, and we are determined to wait them out. Their response indicated that their focus remains on eliminating Advertising, SFGate and Marketing staff from union jurisdiction, a horrible idea. Before we agree to any changes in union protection, we plan to reach out to affected employees.
The tone Tuesday was cordial, and several members were able to stop by and observe the bargaining firsthand. But at the end of a long couple of days, we were left alone on the dance floor. The meetings did achieve one goal: Management must now focus on our key priorities – and we hope its tune changes when bargaining resumes Jan. 9 and 10.
Your Bargaining Committee