Bee units mulling McClatchy cost-containment proposals
Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto Bees and Editorial Production Center
Bargaining bulletin #1 (consolidated)
Sacramento Bee Guild unit ratifies contract amendments
Guild members of the Sacramento Bee advertising and editorial staff voted Thursday to ratify contract amendments that clear the way for a proposed 2% merit pool to take effect in 2015.
The annual contract reopener for the Sacramento Bee Guild unit also lifts a cap on cell phone reimbursement, and ensures that all employees, even junior employees with little to no seniority, have an opportunity to take vacations during the holiday periods at least once every three years.
New terms include a provision granting more flexibility for the management to adjust sales commission goals and to implement incentives to sell more online products.
Editorial Production Center is its own unit
The agreement ratified Thursday in Sacramento covers only the editorial and ad staff who work under the so-called “legacy” Sacramento Bee contract. A separate contract covers the Editorial Production Center (EPC) workforce, which is also based in Sacramento but performs copy editing and page production work for the Sacramento and Modesto Bees.
Separate talks continue concerning pay and other issues at the production center, as well as Modesto and Fresno. The Sacramento Bee member ratification Thursday represents the first vote approving the 2015 merit pool, expected to be the same at all the Bee properties once negotiations are concluded.
McClatchy proposes to bring Fresno Bee copy editors into the EPC
McClatchy management now wants to shift Fresno Bee copy editing to the Sacramento EPC as well, although the Fresno copy editors could work remotely, remaining physically located in Fresno at their current workplace.
Along with the Sacramento reopener concluded Thursday, the Guild and management are discussing contract amendments for Fresno and re-visiting the entire contracts at the EPC and the Modesto Bee.
The voting Thursday was by email and ballot box at the Bee’s downtown Sacramento headquarters. That followed a two-hour bargaining session at a Sacramento hotel Thursday morning involving the proposed Fresno move.
No agreement was reached on the Fresno transfer issues. Talks in Fresno will begin in February.
McClatchy’s consolidation of copy editing underscores the newspaper industry’s effort to bring traditional production costs into line with the shrinkage of print revenues, while simultaneously pumping up online operations. McClatchy is engaged in a corporate-wide redesign initiative known as “2020,” due in May.
In the case of the Modesto Bee copy desk consolidation, the company required workers to relocate to Sacramento and agreed to special transition terms in case someone declined to make the jump. For Fresno, the considerably greater distance from Sacramento argued for a different approach in order to save the veteran Fresno staff from forced job loss or family upheaval.
Management has offered to keep all incumbent Guild-covered staff working in Fresno at the Bee if the union agrees to shift their employment status to the separate production unit. The company seeks agreement from the Guild that the change in employment status would not trigger a severance payout. Instead, the Fresno employees would retain their seniority and severance rights should they be laid off in the future.
Discussions Thursday involved mainly fact-gathering.
Guild members led by Fresno unit chair Bethany Clough want to know if voluntary buy-outs will be available for any copy editors who do not wish to be employed by the Sacramento EPC. The company so far has declined to offer any buyout option, arguing it is not forcing anyone to relocate, and has no immediate plans to lay off current production staff.
Questions also are being raised about the differences between the Fresno Bee and Sacramento EPC contract terms and conditions. Management has assured no one will suffer a pay cut, and in some cases pay raises may be due depending on assignment, experience and current Fresno pay levels.
The Guild is pressing for details on job descriptions, assignments, workflow, schedules, pay and benefits. We filed a written request for information Thursday that will allow us to better evaluate the company’s proposal. However, it seems clear that management may not be prepared to answer some of the operational questions, at least not until the 2020 project is further along.
Modesto Bee unit in bargaining; resisting future furloughs
Meanwhile, the talks are continuing on a new labor agreement in Modesto following yet another reduction in the Guild workforce. The company cut two Guild-covered jobs in Modesto and two in Sacramento through voluntary separation agreements.
The management has announced the 2 percent merit pool companywide for 2015 following a pay freeze last year, but also demands the right to furlough workers two weeks this year and in future years, despite no current plans to order furloughs. The Guild has been resisting the furlough demands in contracts that don’t already provide for them. Our initial pay proposals called for across-the-board increases rather than the merit pool approach.
The next two bargaining meetings scheduled with the McClatchy management: February 5 at 10 am in Modesto and February 18 at 1 pm in Fresno.
Representing the Guild on Thursday: Ed Fletcher, Ed Fishbein, Bethany Clough, Carl Hall and Kat Anderson.
Representing the management: Linda Brooks, Rita Blomster, Gary Strong, Mark Ochinero, and Aaron Agenbroad, counsel (successor to Bob Ford).