Costs of health care dominate Chronicle negotiations
San Francisco Chronicle Unit
Pacific Media Workers Guild
December 19, 2012
Bargaining resumed Wednesday for a new Guild contract at the San Francisco Chronicle, where Guild representatives pressed for answers to questions surrounding a proposed transition of union members into the Hearst-run health care program.
Management brought no new proposals to the table, and offered no movement on the core economic and health care issues that have been standing in the way of agreement. However, the company did respond with some new information about the health plan options Hearst is willing to extend.
We told the management that we need to reach an agreement before March 1 in order to move into a different health care plan by June, as we anticipate trying to do in order to take advantage of a reserve fund in the current Media Guild Health & Welfare Trust Fund.
We adjourned today’s talks with three big questions left to be answered:
- How much will pay go up to cover the anticipated increase in health care costs faced by Guild members? So far, Hearst has offered 1.5 percent annual pay raises in each year of a proposed four-year contract. The Guild is seeking 4 percent in the first year and 3 percent each additional year of a five-year deal, plus a 401(k) match and health care premium limits.
- What can be done to reduce a very large jump in Kaiser premiums if Guild members convert from our current union-run health plan to the management system. Guild-covered employees now pay no more than a 20 percent share of the Kaiser premium. The employee share is 40 percent in the current management plan. For single people, the monthly cost would jump from $84 to at least $230 in 2013 unless the company modifies its offer.
- What will happen to the health care options of Chronicle early retirees, many of whom receive health coverage through the current Guild-run system? Although these individuals pay the full premium cost, they get the benefit of group rates through the Media Guild plan. That benefit might disappear if the Media Guild Health plan goes out of business.
The management and union bargainers agreed to meet again in January at a date to be determined. Meanwhile, we are studying the company’s proposals and anticipate a series of special bulletins and meetings with members soon after the holidays.
Representing the Guild: Autumn Grace, Jon Ferguson, Carl Hall and Kat Anderson (Guild local staff), and Darren Carroll (Guild international staff).
Representing Hearst and the Chronicle: Cathy Rommelfanger, Suzy Cain, Peter Rahbar (in San Francisco), and Carolene Eaddy and Aryn Sobo (via videoconference from New York).