Contract Talks Open at Sacramento Bee and McClatchy Editorial Production Unit
By Ed Fletcher
Guild officers and representatives of the Bee management team met Wednesday at the Sacramento Hilton to discuss a new contract for McClatchy Co.’s editorial production center and key parts of the Sacramento Bee contract covering newsroom and advertising staff.
Representing the Bee were managers Linda Brooks, Rita Blomster and Gary Strong, and attorney Robert Ford. On the guild side were Sacramento copy editor Ed Fishbein and reporter Ed Fletcher, along with Local 39521 Executive Officer Carl Hall and staff rep Kat Anderson.
The production center contract expires at the end of this year, as does the Modesto Bee Guild contract. A separate contract covering the Sacramento Bee newsroom and ad staff continues another year, but is subject to annual reopeners on economic and other issues. The Fresno Bee contract runs to the end of 2016, but also has a reopener pending.
The Guild is pushing for economic and benefit gains at all McClatchy units. The Sacramento managers on Wednesday outlined what appeared to be a modest list of desired changes, including some characterized as housekeeping.
One of the main questions yet to be answered is the corporate budget for employee raises. Brooks said economic conditions remain difficult, but the steep declines in revenues experienced in recent years appear to have leveled off. Brooks said the Sacramento management submitted a budget to McClatchy. It includes an unspecified amount for the merit pool. Further information on the budget is expected within a few weeks.
Our contracts now include a process for distributing merit raises by performance, including challenge rights for unfair reviews and minimum pay guarantees. The Guild has proposed new 3-year contracts that would include across-the-board pay increases of 3 percent in each year, with no unpaid furloughs. Management said it wants to avoid resorting to the furlough option again, but will seek the right to impose furloughs if necessary.
The company also is proposing a change in vacation rules that would allow all employees to get one of the major holidays off every three years. Current practice allows the most senior employees to claim those holiday periods every year.
The company is also asking for greater flexibility in increasing or decreasing goals for advertising employees. It also proposed extending the deadline for fixing the quarterly sales goals. Brooks also said there was interest in pushing advertising sales people to sell online ads without the assistance of a digital specialist.
Guild officers said they would respond to the advertising proposals only after providing an opportunity for front-line sales staff to consider the proposals and any alternatives.
Negotiations are set to continue November 19 in Sacramento, when the first detailed written proposals are expected to be discussed. Guild members are invited to observe any negotiating session.