Decision time for Guild members as Hearst digs in

Members of the Chronicle negotiating committee met during lunch Monday with their new colleagues in the Guild's Purple Communications bargaining unit whose own talks begin Tuesday.
Members of the Chronicle negotiating committee met during lunch Monday with their new colleagues in the Guild’s Purple Communications bargaining unit whose own talks begin Tuesday.

San Francisco Chronicle Unit
Bargaining Bulletin #18

Hearst Corp. lawyers showed up Monday with nothing new to move us toward a contract agreement. They did show us some new health care numbers, but they failed to impress. The company’s latest offer looked very much like its earlier offer. We didn’t buy it.

We adjourned without agreement. No new talks are scheduled. We are calling membership meetings for ALL CHRONICLE GUILD MEMBERS on Wednesday March 20, when we will make important decisions about the company’s future and our jobs.

Hearst refused Monday to increase its pay offer of 1.5% a year over the proposed four-year term of a new contract. Nor would the management offer any more than it pays now (the same amount paid since 2005) to maintain our current health plan. The company’s revised health care numbers show costs for most employees would be worse than previously proposed, although there were slight improvements on Kaiser costs for singles and couples.

Health premiums for a Kaiser-covered family would rise, however, to $663 a month, up from $618 in the company’s earlier scenario.  Right now, Kaiser families pay only $316 a month. Kaiser single coverage – despite the slight improvement in the numbers revealed Monday –would go to $225 a month in the Hearst proposal, vs. $84 now in the Guild-run plan.

The Guild committee offered a revised proposal of our own Monday, designed to maintain the cost advantages of our existing Kaiser HMO coverage while allowing Guild members to move into the Hearst corporate health plan if they wanted to enroll in a non-Kaiser insurance option.

Guild negotiators told the company we plan to consult with our members before we respond to the continued corporate stonewalling. As it stands now, the company in effect demands that we bear substantial pay cuts – just as rumors fly that the company is making plans for management profit-sharing on the backs of Guild members.

Our current health care system desperately needs more revenues. A large factor is that the company has not increased its contribution in eight years, despite rampant inflation of health care costs.

The Guild bargaining team proposed modestly increasing the Chronicle’s contribution for health care from $148 per week per employee to $182. We would also raise the employee share of the costs, although not nearly as much as Hearst wants us to do. At the same time, the company has proposed 1.5% annual pay increases for four years. The Guild proposed 2% increases for the final three years. The company said no.

Representing the Guild: Autumn Grace, Jon Ferguson, Michael Cabanatuan, Matthai Kuruvila, Carl Hall and Kat Anderson (Guild local staff).

Representing Hearst and the Chronicle: Cathy Rommelfanger, Suzy Cain, Aryn Sobo (in San Francisco), and Carolene Eaddy and Peter Rahbar (via videoconference from New York).

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer