Hostile management attacks union as Hilo talks resume
Hawaii Tribune-Herald unit
Our Guild bargaining committee met with representatives of Stephens Media, owner of the Hilo-based Hawaii Tribune-Herald, on March 14 and March 15 in Honolulu for contract negotiations that centered on economic issues such as health care costs.
The company outlined the rationale for several proposals with an economic impact. The company wants subcontracting rights to downsize the number of employees in the mailroom and in ad production/operations. The company also wants to remove seniority as the primary factor during layoffs.
The company is not offering any wage increases and cautioned that a pay cut is possible if negotiations take too long and the economy worsens.
Calling the existing health care provisions in the contract “unrealistically generous,” the company has proposed paying 72.5 percent of monthly medical insurance premiums, down from 100 percent of the Kaiser plan and 90 percent of the HMSA plan.
The company has agreed to establish a pre-tax premium payment plan, which would likely reduce costs for workers and the company.
The Guild, recognizing the challenge of containing health care costs, has suggested that the company cover 95 percent of the Kaiser plan and 85 percent of the HMSA plan, a 5 percent increase in the premium share for workers.
But the Guild proposes that the increase be offset by annual raises of 5 percent in a three-year contract. The Guild contends that raises are justified because pay has not kept pace with the cost of living over the past decade and workers would be exposed to higher health insurance costs under both the Guild’s and the company’s contract proposals. The state’s economy is slowly improving, so workers who suffered during the recession should share in the financial gain.
The negotiations opened on March 14 with a conflict. Michael Zinser, the lead negotiator for Stephens Media, refused to answer a question from Carl Hall, the chief negotiator for the Guild, about why the company proposed deleting a provision in the existing contract that prohibits the company from interfering with the operation of the Guild.
During a caucus, the Guild filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the company was not bargaining in good faith.